Economy

Soda Companies Aggressively Target Black And Latino Kids, Fueling Childhood Obesity Epidemic

It’s well known that America’s obesity epidemic disproportionately affects poor and minority children because of the country’s glut of cheap, unhealthy foods. Soft drinks are such a major culprit in the childhood obesity epidemic that some local governments have tried to levy taxes on them to reduce consumption. The Obama administration announced a plan to ban candy and sweetened beverages from schools.

Now, a new study reveals that soda companies have been targeting black and Latino children in high numbers, diminishing parents’ attempts to encourage their kids to eat right:

A new report from Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity has found that beverage companies are aggressively targeting black and Latino kids with ads to promote sports, fruit and energy drinks. The products that are promoted to kids of color happen to be among the least healthy of the 644 products studied by researchers at the university.

Black children and teens saw 80 percent to 90 percent more ads compared with white youth, including more than twice as many for Sprite, 5-hour Energy, and Vitamin Water.

From 2008 to 2010, Latino children saw 49 percent more ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks on Spanish-language TV. Latino preschoolers saw more Spanish-language ads for Coca-Cola Classic, Kool-Aid, 7 Up, and Sunny D than older Latino children and teens did.

Colorlines notes that the two largest soda companies, Pepsi and Coca-Cola, have repeatedly promised to market less to children, who are more susceptible to advertising: “Coca-Cola, for example, has previously stated publicly that they wouldn’t market ads in TV, radio and print programming aimed at kids under the age of 12.”

But the report found that soda companies have just shifted to using more sophisticated and insidious forms of advertising that promise kids rewards for purchasing sugary drinks. Kids are exposed to these messages “often without their parents’ awareness.”

Companies’ targeting of minority children is a social justice issue as well as an economic one. Just like mortgage companies that focused their predatory lending on minority communities, soda companies are preying on a particularly vulnerable group (poor children) who are already suffering the ill effects of their product and have the most to lose from consuming more. For instance, these children are less likely to have health insurance to cover the numerous medical problems associated with obesity.