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Beware Of Junk Food Marketeers

Who's to blame for the growing child obesity epidemic in America?

According to a new report from the Center For Science In The Public Interest (CSPI), some of the biggest culprits are companies that specifically market junk food to kids.

The CSPI is the group that pointed out the hidden fat in popcorn and in Mexican food. Now, its focus is fast-food marketing that targets children.

Michael Jacobson, the group's executive director, says the group's goal is to promote kids' health by protecting them from junk-food marketers who target them.

He says on The Early Show, "We have such a tremendous problem with obesity in this country that leads to high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, just terrible diseases and all kinds of other problems. We've got to protect kids. Instead, our country has allowed junk-food marketers - and not just fast-food companies, but sugary cereals and high-in-calorie chips - to target kids.

"They do it on Saturday morning television. They have vending machines in schools. Practically every brand-name product has a Web site and kids-oriented products have Web sites and games and other things to entice kids and get kids to want those products.

"And then they put the products in fast food outlets, everywhere: shopping centers, airports, even in thousands of schools. Our society has to stop that," he says.

Even though parents do have a big responsibility to ensure their kids eat healthy meals, Jacobson says, "All of this marketing put parents in a very unfair position. Companies are going directly to kids and saying, 'Eat this, eat this, drink this, drink this, it's yummy - you'll love it.' Parents have to say 'No, no, no,' and how many parents say no a thousand times?"

He emphasizes that even if parents lead by example in eating healthy, it is still unfair to allow companies with sleek campaigns to undermine parental authority.

Jacobson says, " Twenty-five years ago, the government tried to get junk food advertising off of children's television, but they were stopped by the toy industry, the food industry, the broadcasting industry and the advertising industry. It's time to take another crack at that."

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