There needs to be regulations on the distribution, sale, advertising, and overall consumption of junk food by children. Besides the fact that children are the greatest long-term investment any country has, junk food is not only unbeneficial in every concern relating to health possible, it is also causing health problems in children (and adults) at near epidemic levels. To do nothing in the realm of curbing the consumption of these foods would not be irresponsible, it is also short-sided and dangerous. There primary points that this paper will specifically target when reviewing this topic are: one, what are junk foods and what about them makes them bad, two, current trends and consumption of junk foods today, and the third point will be to look at what are some practical things that can be done to curb the consumption of junk foods.
Before we begin, it is worth noting that there is historical precedence for the government taking action against an industry that sells goods that are consumed, and for the sake of this paper, we will look at what the government did in its battle against the Tobacco Industry. Although there has been much research devoted to the topic that consuming junk foods and the ensuing results of obesity are akin to the effects that smoking has on the body, with that point aside, the government did take action against the Tobacco Industry. Although there have been advocates against smoking since at least the 1930’s, the anti-smoking message really began to hit its stride in the late 1980’s and the 1990’s. There are a myriad of factors that contributed to this lobby’s message growth, but among other reasons was the simple fact that scientists, doctors, and researches all came to the same conclusion that smoking is bad (Early, 2010). Now, it took a while for the public to catch on to what the researchers were saying, but once there began to be a generally accepted consensus of the hazards to health that smoking has, it changed the entire nature of the debate. One of the factors that helped to sway public opinion and perception on this matter was that the government (Local, State and Federal) came out very strong against smoking. The end results of governmental actions is that smoking has become an act that is shunned by most people. The point of the previous illustration are these: smoking is bad for people, the government took action in the form of showing smoking in a bad light, raising taxes on smoking, and coming out with a very strong anti-smoking campaign, and the result today is that there are less smokers, and even though we live in a free society and no one lost their constitutional rights, the government was able to attack a problem, and the public health is better for it (Schroeder, 2008). This kind of strategy needs to be employed against the scourge of American and Westerners societies, that being obesity and the host of issues that come with being obese.
The term “junk food” is axiomatic in its meaning, it is junk in the form of food. Now, junk food can take on several different forms, and the term itself does include liquids, i.e. soda and other drinks that contain a high sugar content (this last point can be contested in the form of juices). With that being said, a working list of junk foods includes: fast food, candy, potato chips, low grade frozen foods, sweets, pastries and other foods similar to these. For the sake of this paper, we will focus on the foods that contain no dietary purpose for their existence other than they taste good: meaning candy, potato chips and soda. On a side note, the Fast Food Industry is a contributor to the unhealthy state of children, but on the same token, there are foods sold at fast food restaurants that do in fact contain nutrients that people need to live, so we will shy away from discussing them in great detail. Junk foods are then considered foods that contain no nutritional benefits from consumption; furthermore, a high junk food diet will only lead to poor health because junk foods are bad for people (Newnham, 2009). According to Schreier “Junk foods […] burgers, pizzas, potato wafers and fries” (Schreier, 2011).The previous mentioned statement, along with other points already raised, will be the working definition of junk foods that is used in this paper.
Now that we have discussed what exactly junk foods are, we will now move onto why they are bad for diets. As it can be gathered, junk food is not good for people, and the primary reason is because it causes poor healthy. According to Newnham, junk food can look good, and it can even taste good, but that does not mean that they are actually good for people, furthermore, the junk foods that actually taste the best are the foods that are most likely to be bad for your health (Newnham, 2009). As it can be seen, junk food is bad and is unbeneficial to good health in people, and the most prevalent form of bad health that it causes is in the form of obesity. According to Datar, the percentage of children who were obese rose from 7% in 1980, to over 18% in 2012 (Datar, 2012). Obesity has become such an issue that some organizations have declared it to be a bigger health issue than smoking. The reasons why junk foods are bad for people are simple: they contain high levels of sugar and salt, which are both addictive in nature, and they replace the consumption of healthy foods (Newnham, 2009). Before addressing the other two points that were raised, when a person eats, their body wants to tell them that they are full, but what happens when a person eats junk food is that their body is telling them that they should not eat anymore, even though what they just ate is completely unnatural to their bodies, and as a result, a person may eat an entire bag of potato chips and feel full afterwards, but their body has in no way actually consumed foods that will help it to be sustained (Newnham, 2012). In addition to the fact that junk food consumption is not only harmful to good health, there has research conducted that directly links eating junk food to obesity (Datar, 2012). According to Waddingham, children who have greater exposure to junk foods while at school are more likely to develop obesity and other health diseases, compared to children who attend schools with a lesser number of vending machines (Waddingham, 2015). To address a pervious point raised, besides the fact that junk foods oftentimes contain chemicals and other substances that are harmful to people, the core of all junk foods revolve around high concentrated levels of sugar and salt (Schreier, 2011). Due to the fact that junk foods, which contain two very addictive components, sugar and salt, and factor in that they cost less to produce and distribute than healthy foods, it then comes as no surprise that children are eating more junk food, which are bad for them. Essentially then, a person who consumes junk food is eating something that is addictive, bad for them, and it causes them to shy away from a healthy diet.
Current trends in junk food consumption are hard to know with all certainty, due to the fact that there are a high number of variables including: who consumes junk foods, where in the country they are, and other socioeconomic factors. With that being said, there has been a recent push in the past ten years in the promotion of eating healthier. As it has already been mentioned, the number of children who are what can be considered at obese-levels hit a high in the year 2012. One of the primary factors that have contributed to this stabilization in the statistics would be that the government is making very small advancements in the vilification of junk food producers. Although the government, State and Federal, have come out with information in favor of healthy eating, there has been no real substantial effort to reduce the total number of children who consume junk foods. With all of this being taken into account, junk food heavy diets are still very popular in America, and in fact, the people who consume junk foods the most are seen to be individuals whose families are more in need economically, meaning that they are poor (Datar, 2012). Now, whereas in the past, families in America had little information regarding the negative impacts that junk foods have on themselves and their children, the issue today does not revolve around the notion of lack of information (although this can be a factor), the issue today primarily revolves around the fact that people are consistently choosing to eat junk food over healthy foods like fruits and easy to carry vegetables. There are a variety of reasons for why a person might choose to eat junk food including the facts that: they are cheap, and they taste good. Their taste of course is artificially created that way so they will make people addicted to them.
This naturally leads into the next point; that being the practical regulations that the FDA and State Governments can enact to curb the consumption of junk foods. For one, junk foods can be targeted for higher sales tax rates. Junk foods, as it stands today, has a competitive advantage over healthy foods, in that, they are cheaper, and they taste better; and although junk foods cannot be made to taste worse, their other advantage, cost, can be gotten rid of. A higher tax on junk foods would bring greater polarity in their cost to those of healthier foods. For those who believe that such an action is illegal, need we look at what the government did in its fight against the Tobacco Industry? The government decided in its fight against the consumption of cigarettes that they needed to be the target of higher sales tax rates. If the FDA, ATF, and State Governments were able to raise the cost of cigarettes, then it should not be that great of a stretch to raise the cost of junk foods. Another solution that the FDA can enact to curb the consumption of junk foods would be to come out against in the sense of producing propaganda that portrays eating junk foods as a bad thing. As part of the fight against smoking, several different organizations, with the backing of government money, have produced commercials, radio ads, and created websites dedicated to the sole purpose of portraying smoking as harmful to peoples’ health. A similar campaign can be created that seeks to inform people that junk food will in fact contribute to poor health, and that there is a greater likelihood that they will develop obesity if they consume junk foods. A third action that the FDA could do in association with the FCC and Cable Providers would be to limit the number of commercials that broadcast to children that promote junk foods, in the same way that the promotion of smoking is non-existent. Another action that the FDA can do in conjunction with other Federal Agencies is prohibit K-12th schools that receive Federal Aid from purchasing junk foods with the aid that is given to them, and K-12 schools that receive Federal Aid should be prohibited from having junk food vending machines on campus. With this kind of rule, persons under the age of 18 will have to rely on purchasing junk food when their parents are around.
In conclusion, the government needs to regulate the consumption of junk foods, especially when it comes to children’s consumption of them. Junk food consumption is bad for diets, it causes people (in particular children) to become obese, and the only thing that is going to stop the spread of childhood obesity is a crackdown by the government on junk foods.
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Newnham, D. (2009). Junk food can look good but taste bad, david newnham has discovered. Nursing Standard, 24(15-17), 24.
Schreier, P. (2011). Harmful effects of junk foods – but what about canteen and restaurant food? Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, 55(1), 5-6.
Schroeder, S. (2008). Stranded in the periphery – the increasing marginalization of smokers. New England Journal of Medicine, 358(21), 2284-2286.
Waddingham, S. (2015). Most of them are junk food but we did put fruit on there and we have water: What children can tell us about the food choices they make. Health Education, 115(2), 126-140.