At a time when young Americans need to consume less high-calorie food at fast food restaurants, a comprehensive study said that fast food restaurants are doing little to offer a better slate of nutritional meals.

Fast food sellers need to do more to “establish meaningful standards for child-targeted marketing,” the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity said in the report released Nov. 8. The report noted that African-American children in particular, are being adversely affected with meals higher in calories and fat as well as sugar and sodium.

The comprehensive 208-page study of marketing among the 12 largest fast food chains also found that advertising is addressed to children –including those as young age 2 — through TV commercials aired when parents may not be paying much attention.

African-American children for instance, see at least 50 percent more fast food ads than their White peers. In addition, the report indicated that McDonald’s and KFC specifically target African American youth with TV advertising, targeted Websites, and banner ads. The report researched more than 3,000 children’s meal combinations, some 2,800 menu items and took into consideration the more than $4.2 million spent last year by the fast food industry on advertising and marketing.

“Despite pledges to improve marketing their services, fast food companies seem to be stepping up their efforts to target kids,” Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center, said. “Today, pre-schoolers see 21 percent more fast food ads on TV than they saw in 2003, and somewhat older children see 34 percent more.”

But a lot of people are not idly standing by as children suffer the effects of obesity and other conditions–including high blood pressure and diabetes, all linked to unhealthy diets.

Concerned about a growing number of children subjected to obesity, a group of San Francisco’s officials recently voted to ban toys in any children’s meals laden with sodium, fat and calories.

The new ordinance –which directly targets Burger King and McDonald’s franchises — specifically bans restaurants from giving away a toy with a meal unless it meets low-fat, low-calorie food requirements.

“I’m not going to say the fast food meals are all that healthy –it just depends on how much of it the children eat and how often,” said Dechante Jackson, who patronized a Washington, D.C. McDonald’s this week with her children.

Jackson told the AFRO that she treats her children to McDonald’s food about once every other week. But she said she wasn’t worried about her children developing health issues from eating fast foods because, “I know better than to feed it to them frequently.” Said Jackson: “My daughter was just talking about fries being unhealthy but she also understands that if eaten in moderation, she’ll be fine.”

The report is available at: http://www.myhomefront.tv/mr/rwjf/fastfoodfacts_reportsummary.pdf

DorothyRowley

AFROStaffWriter