IS IT rAIR TO SELL SUGAR TO CHILDREN? Joan Guesow Instructor -Program in Nutrition Teachers College Columbia UniVOrsity New York# N. Y. Panel-- "Seeing is Believing?" March 8, 1974

It Is my understanding that a good deal of the ad-.. vertlaing of the RcOonald Hamburger Chain Is local rather then national; so I don't know whether you here in hio have had the opportunity to see the commercial we have in New Yorkt In which a man goes up to the counter of a McDonald's hamburger store, opens his mouth wide, "AHHHHHHHHH)1". points Into $t,and says After a few puzzled moments, the counterman there was a story in the Now York It seems he had

suddenly realizes that the man wants a Big Maoeand smilingly gives it to him.*Well, Times several weeks ago to the effect that some man had called the Better Business Bureau with a complaint. gone into a McDonalds, pointed to his mouth and said "AHHHHHHHHH" and gotten laughed out or the 6tore-- he wanted to file a complaint for misleading advertising. Aside from being funny, I think that story illustrates 1) that it does intwo important things about advertising

fluence people's behavior; and 2) that complaints made about it are often focussed exclusively on such limited questions as whether a particular ad is directly misleading.

Today I want to deal with advertising somewhat more broadly. When I was invited to this conference, I was told But when I got-the outline for that I should discusshow we might improve-nutrition education through television commercials, the two-day program, I noticed that Richard Ieanoff who runs an I happen

advertising agency was scheduled to speak before md--at lunch yesterday-- about selling nutrition via the media. to be a fen of Dick Masnoff'a and I was sure that he would do a better Job then I could of telling you how we might use commercials to improve nutrition education. a representative of Kellogg's. Then I saw that on this panel with me there would be a representative of the FTC and And-I e@kcthd'tJht they;would tell you what the rTC is and will be doing to improve existing food commercials and what Kellogg's has been doing to promote breakfast, That took care of most of what I thought I was supposed I want -to talk about. So I have chosen to talk about something else. to begin by considering first what advertising in general does, second what food advertising in particular does, and finally what are some of the specific problems-- and proposed solutions-related to food advertising directed at children. I will begin with adveait±.sing in general, are the world's most diligent consumers* Americans than 6'• We are loas

of the world's population, yet we manage to consume from half to 609 of all the world's non-renewable natural resources, roughly a third of all the world's animal protein and about 35t of the world's total energy supply, (The electricity used

by American air conditioners alone Is equal to the total electrical energy used by the population of the Chinese People's Republic.) Just as we consume more than our share of the world's goode, we also consume the majority of the world's advertising. Last year the 210 million people in the United States were exposed to some 23 billion dollars worth of advertising-- that's 3115 per capita-- while the 3 billion plus people who make up the Other 94( of the world's citizens consumed only 12 and a half billion dollars worth-- thatsabout 54 apiece. Altogether, we 61 of the world's people consume 651 of the world's advertising. The'fact that.wb are.:subjected to the majority of the world's advertising and consume a disproportionate share of the world's things are not unrelated. facts; for we have achieved our dazzling level of consumption at least partly as a result of advertising. In a small and brilliant book People of' Plenty, first published some 20 years ago, Historian David Pntter points out that advertising in its flamboyant American manifestation was a response to an astonishing level of' abundance. In some times and places, he points out, the advertising notice served the simple Purpose of informing an already interested buyer that a certain product was available. In America it had another role! for a unique combination of natural and human resources produced an economy In which the potential supply of goods could readily outstrip public demand for them. abundance," Potter writes, "In a society or "the Droductlve capacity can supply

new kinds of goods faster then society in the mass learns to crave these goods or to regard them as necessitles. new productive-capacity is to be used.o. tion Is paramount.* It this , society must be

adjusted to a new set of drives and values in which consumpThe instrument of this consumption-adjustAdvertising in'America rapidly ment was--and is-- advertising.

became an instrument of persuasion, the only'institution we have had, Potter points out, for Instilling new needs, for training people to act as consumers, for oreatinm wants suffioient to exploit the country's productive capacity. Potter saw advertising as being, like the school and the

church, a major social influence,

and he raises some unsettling

questions about the erfect on a society of having as one of its major instruments of social control an institution whose-sole aim ii to promote consumption. I cannot deal with those questions today; but I have gone on about the underlying economic function of advertising in order to emphasize one basic fact of which we must all be aware. The purpose of advertising at this time oeo, overconsumption. in this country is to stimulate wants and to instill needs-to promote consumption beyond need-Yet we are coming into a time-- we are, indoedp in the midst of a time-- when overconsumption (translated as waste) of any 6f the world's Increasingly scarce resources is a sine-and I mean the moral outrage that word implies. What do we do about the habits. of' overconsumption which advertising has encouraged and continues to encourage now that the world Is beginning to run short of many of the things It needs to survive.

Now do we unlearn abundance in the face of the hungry world's glowingly critical need for a shatoeof our wasted energy and our wasted food? What mechanisms do we have for keeping our economy going while asking the American people as citizens of the world, to put lees of a drain on that world's increasingly scarce resources? Suoh a question is particularly poignant-- and urgent-where food is concerned. Waste of anything In a world of finite Last-September resources JO wrong-- waste of food is obscene. Growing Threat of World Famine",

the Wall Street journal published an article entitled "The in which the author, an agricultural development worker, showed that if we and the other developed nations bid for the world's tightening supplies of food grains we could drive prices high enough to make starvation inevitable for a number of hard-pressed developing countries. Keep in mind that the $115 we invest per capita in advertising is somnewhat more then the yearly per capita Income of the world's 800 million poorest people. the author of the Well Street Journal article suggested a massive public service advertising campaign in this country aimed at saving food, urging such voluntary steps as reduction In the size of restaurant portionst immediate commencement of planned diets on the part of potential dieters, a reduction from two to one pro-dinhor drink-- thus saving half of the grain used for alcohol. urgent, save food. In September the need tct take action was I have seen no massive effort to It is how March.

Margaret ('ead once pointed out that it was difficult for overfed Americans to keep in mind that people elsewhere were starving because we were always having the experience of refusing food. vision screen. It Is also difficult to keep hunger in mind Americans are encouraged to waste food-- and in an American supermarket or in front of an American teleto deal with it frivolously-- at least in part by the very nature of the food products advertised and the 6ppea•oIs made for them. Novelty, runt sparkly colors and shapes, irresistable sweetness for children; and sexual or social triumph for adults-- these are the characteristics to be sought in food-not repletion, true sociability or survival. Rising prices may change the American diet somewhat and may also change somewhat the nature of the appeal. It is not difficult to forsee a move to add vitamins and minerals to these same fun foods in order to be able to advertise them as "nutritous". ing, But we should not be led by our "sacrifices" at the I am not at all unmindful of the plight or the poor-Their condition is supermarket to believe that we are now sharing the world's sufferand even the not-so-poor In this country.

unforgiveable in the richest country the world has ever known. But as for the rest of us-- as Robert McNamarat President of the World Bank pointed out, recently-- there is a difference between relative and absolute poverty* We may by now be spending But If you are 25-35% of our incomes for food, and since we are not used to doing that, we will suffer when prices go up, spending 80% or more of your Lhcome on food-- as are millions

of people in the developing countrins.up you do not merely suffer, then whe-r prices go

you starve and die. for me is Namely,

So the broadest problem advertising ralsae one to

hihch I have no present glimmer of a solution.

what do we do about advertising the medium of plenty In a time of .growing shortages? Now do we prevail upon advertising, to teach setf-restraint? the medium of self-lndulgence,

The second problem to which I would like to nddress myself is the effect of advertising on nutritional habits. This problem has two aspects, one arising specifically out of advertising's promotion of overconsumption; the other arising out of advertising's economic imperatives-- and their effect on the nature ot the products advertised. As I have said, Now it is advertising in this country promotes overconsumption in order to allow for the continued growth of the economy, one thing to promote overconsumption of such things as care, houses, appliances, clothing, airplane rides and so forth. Consumers can purchase such goods without running up against any personal biological limits (although as we are beinning to learn there may be environmental limits), the year. But food Is a unique commodity.. If you have a big vrconsumption enough closet you can have a pair of shoes for every day in of food can occur only within narrow limits, even if obesity is accepted as a consequence. endlessly acquired. Unless food is to be purchased to be thrown away (as in American steak houses) it cannot be

Theoretically, therefore, the food -industry -ought to • grow only as fest as the population, or perhaps somewhat more slowly since the population is bec.oring sedentary and needs less food. But tt'e food industry is a business and How do you like other businesses in America wants to grow, has only a fixed rational market? riret, simpl6 ovbl'consumption must be encouraged with food as with other goods, Which is where we come in. ror we are nutritionists and dietitians in a country whose worst nutritional problems arise out of overconsumption-- of calories, of fat, of refined carbohydrate, of sweet, fatty and salty snacks. Therefore, in trying to encourage rational eating behavior in our clients, we must jnevitably come into cbnfilot with at least one of the things that the food Indvitry in general-- and food advertising in particular is trying to do-- namely encourage theloverconsumption of food products which most people' would be better off without. There is a corollary to this understanding. if we were successful? What would happen to the food industry as It is now ConstitOted What would happen If by some miracle everyone in the United States suddenly began listening to us-if they stopped eating all kinds of snacks and Junk foods and went back to eating foods rather than food products? the food industry., The answer is simple---there would be a significant recession in I wish some economists would tell me what

encourage continued and expanding growth for a product which

'could be done about thief r for thoogh* 1 have gioen it a lot of thought, I have not yet resolved the dilemma of how the rood industry could remain economically viable if it were to market only simple nutritious foods in the quantities which would keep everyone adequately red. The second thing the rood industry has done to keep growing in the face of a relatively fixed demand, is to invent non-caloric foods. These permit a sort of Dorian Grey approach to gluttony; aided by indigestible "bulking agents" like methyl cllulose and non-caloric sweeteners (like cyclamates of fond memory) we can be tempted to consume far beyond need without becoming as fat as our overindblgence wo~ld normally imply. Unfortunately this delicate balancing process is The beat estimates Insufficiently finely tuned at the moment.

are that by age 50 one-third of the men and one-half of the women in the U. S. are 20% or more over their beet weight-i.e. -ato And finally, as a thirO measure .to.keepthe market

expanding even faster than the population (or their waistlines) novelty and ouerprocessing must be' jsed to coax people to buy less food value for more money. Since it is in the nature of a business to take the simplest legal route to improving profits, the obligation of a food manufacturer, as one advertising man has pointed out "isto market foods he can persuade people to buy for the purpose of returning a profit on his investment. He is not to be blamed for perrerring "run-in-food" over nutritional value as a buying incentive. It Is en easier less

complicated sellirq PrnpoPitJni." r$r as I pointed 6utt entli'r,

if nutrition becomes popular, the manufacturer is not to be
blamed for stickino a ro,,, miles wor.h or vitamins into his

fun foops and doesi•atinq

t.hei. nutritioos.


we, as pro-

fesslonals muit keep in eind, however,

is that in a country

whose maJor identified nutrition problems are the result of too many calories, too much fat, too much refined carbohydrate--

and probably too little fiber- simply pumping vitamins and minerals into foods too high in calories, fat and refined carbohydrate-- and too low in fiber-- is not a solution to nutritional problems. Now if you ask an advertising man, he will tell you of course that these products are brought out in response to consumer demand-- he will say that you cannot sell a product that the public does not want, failure is phenomenally nigh, In fact the rate of product A recent article in Business 120,000 now

Week pointed out that between 1970 and 1980,

products woulo be. k.itroducod into..supermsrOets ovf would fall#


In other words about 10,000 0P the 12#O00 new

products which reach supermarkets every year, will be withdrawn,. Not all of these are food products, remember, portion of them area to a real public need? but a considerable

Are these products brought out in response Clearly in the long run, the products

which succeed are thosefor which at least a weant exfst6-- or can be created, by advertising, And of course one thing

advertising has taught us very effectively is how not to be

..able to distLnguish our.wants from our .needs# There ts almost nothing new to be said on the nature of the products food processors devote their money to promoting. Advertising is expensive-- especially teobvsision advertising. The foods that will be most promoted are inevitably those with the lowest Ingredimnt cost and the highest mark-up-- especially ib this era of rapidly rising raw material costs. As a result, as has often been pointed out, it Is the least nutritious foods which are advertised most and the most nutritious foods which are advertised least# but I will give ue, The point hardly needs illustration-A recent survey of potato prices found

that whereas potatoes could be had for 10o a pound, in a 20 pound bag, potatoes in chips were 51.10 a pound, the potatoes in Crisp-i-taters were 51.47, end the potatoes in Chlusters were 11.?1 a pound. I use potatoes as an example simply because the Potato growers and marketers are attempting to correct some of the imbalance in advertising between the processed and the unprocessed by advertising olain old potatoes, statistics from Advertising !. But the balance is still wildly offt, Pis is illustrated by some recent (n the S7?2 million spent on food advertising in 1972, farm producer groups, promoting largely foods rather than rood products, accounted ror around 5120 million or one-sixth of the total. The American Dairy AsonclatLor, In the largest single advtetiser among the rood associations listed by A Ae.9, spent almost $9 million dollars on advertising 1972. But 112 million was spent promoting Or. Pepper.

If advertising is understood as a mechanism which encourages ovarconaumption-- or at best consumption of the most highly processed and immediately appealing foods, to sell what we think of as good nutrition, Nevertheless some things seems worth .trying. nne thing that seems worth trying is to require some nutritional information in all food commercials-- the approach Judy Cooke was working on developing at the FTC before her tragic death. Second, we need to develop some kind of economic mechanism which can help remedy the imbalance in the kinds of foods that got advertised, We need to see to It that the good foods which are not now advertised-- or are only minimally advertised On television-- and which are rich in the nutrients we are most apt to lack got "sold" to the American people with as much appeal and sophistication as are currently devoted to the selling of useless if not actually harmful snack foods, VIt democracy is- -work, -the least wd qer'"do'ror'It6 citinhd to is to see to it that they have equal exposure to the things they n to know, as well as being exposed to the things And finally, some reform must be made of advertising to children, Children, of course, see more "adult" television than they do children's television, which has led mai of Us concerned about food advertising to recoqnize that we cannot be content with reforming only those ads beamed specifically someone wants them to know in order to make a profit. then it will be clear that advertising cannot be easily reformed

otohildre.n..•everthe.less, ch.Ildreoin.- p.pe.oially. the littleat

and most vulnerable children-- are more likely to watch TV alone, without the(hopefully) modifying influence of an adult, on what it called the Kid Vid Chetto, on Saturday and Sunday mornings. During these hours, children are bombarded with ads designed especially for them-- dazzling and expensive 30 or 60 second dramas Intended to convince theA that they need or want certain products. Over the years since Robert Choate first criticized the advertising of breakfast cereals to children, there have been some reforms in children's advertising. The number of commercial minutes allowed on children's television was reduced least year from 16 to 12 (which Is still 2j mimutps more than is allowed on adult prime time), So now there are fewer commercials per hour, they are somewhat more clustered, vitamin commercials have left the children's hours and the direct appeals to sweetness have been somewhat reduced. Nevertheless there are still two dozen or so commercial messages directed at children each viewing hour, and an average of 3/4 are for ecible products, largely sugared and colored breakfast cereals, candy, highly sweetened beveragesr, cookies, pastries and so forth. Since knowledge about nutrition for the non-professional is not so much a body of facts, but a body of behaviors in regard to food, It is clear that making certain foods seem highly desirable is a way of teaching nutrition. On this

basis, it must be emphasized, the use or. expeneively produced
and appealing television commercials to promote highly sweetened snack-type food to preliterate children-- to the almost total exclusion of simple foods such as fruits and vegetables grains, beans, meats, dairy products and the like-- is promoting poor nutrition. It is really quite simple, If the television Since watching child ate the foods and only the foods he is being urged to eat on television, he would be malnourished, television Is now perhaps the most powerful single educative force In the community-- occupying more of preschoolers time than any other single activity except sleep and more or the school child's time except sleep and school, it Is clear that something must be done, What that something is is not yet clear, A number or industry groups have formulated sets of principles regarding advertising to children which if adhered to would produce utopia, Unfortunately, as interpreted, they have produced The the Saturday and Sunday morning disaster we have now.

outside critics of children's advertising have generqlly focussed on trying to s.et up rules which Wicald .make ads, less misleading. and more inrormative, and which would help children distinguish commercials from program-- ie. help them understand when they are being "sold". Clearly It would be useful to reduce the amount or emotional appeal and Improve the informational level or food ads to children; but some or us believe that less emotionalism and more accuracy are not enough, ror example, where food ads are concerned, it could be argued that the harm

does not arise from the ract that Children are being, misled about non-nutritious products, but that children are being sold non-nutritious products. It may be a good ad for sugar, clearly defined as an adp but If It is an effective ad (and if it is not the advertiser is not going to waste his money running it), it Is going to sell sugar. issue becomes Some of us do not believe it is. At-which point the We do not believe is it right to sell sugar to'children?

that children, especially very young children, can be made into "informed" consumers-- choosing rationally not to eat certain products because they have been made aware of possible long range harm from a diet composed of such products. children that will have some teeth in it. working version of a code to the rTc. Currently efforts are being made to develop a code for advertising to I am a member of the consumer-representative panel which recently submitted a Among the provisions is one which says 1) that no product containing over a certain level of sugar shall be advertised to children on Saturday and Sunday mornings# and 2) that Ur such a product is advertised during family TV hours, when large numbers of children are watching, it will have to carry a warning about the possible harmful effects of large amounts of sugar. Whether or not this particular provision of this particular code is adopted, some action Is going to have to be taken-end soon. If we believe that eating patterns established ih childhood are important, we have got to give mothers some help. We cannot allow the most powerful teaching.medium the world

has ever known to push poor eating habits, and then count on a generation of notritionally-ignorant and/or misguided mothers to battle its effects, rood advertising Is our responsibility as professionals and as citizens, What I have tried to convey to you today As in broad outline is how we have to begin to think about advertising In relation to our problems as professionals, nutrition educators we need to attend to food advertising because it. is, on the whole, working against us.- and because food advertisers appear to know how to do what we do not know how to do, change eating habits. food advertising is our business as citizens because we pay for it. The 1722 million spent on food advertising in 1972 Plus all the other millions spent on the development of products which never even reach the marketplace are part of the ptice we pay for food products. In a time of rising prices and growing food shortages, It is time we Osgan to ask ourselves whether we are getting what we pay for,

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