tsepang setipa

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Is giving Junk food to kids child abuse?

We live in a world where children obesity is growing in large numbers, and yet very few parents seem to be doing anything about it. One can argue that children can really not be to blame as these food choices and lifestyles are made for them from early ages. So my question is whether the habit of constantly getting children used to junk food should be deemed as child abuse or not and what do you think should be done about this.

  • Aug 4 2011: OOOOOOkay. Here's a point for you. Given that there is almost no country on the planet and certainly no industrialized country that doesn't support agriculture in terms of subsidies, tax breaks, etc.

    Given that one of the reasons that junk food is so cheap is that it is heavily subsidized in cost. In the case of your example of chocolate, one of the reasons that it is so cheap is that it is being produced using child slave labor. Yummy. Child slave sweat - how tasty.

    Given that level of subsidization of unhealthy crap, would you support government policies that shifted these subsidies from big corporations producing mal-nutritious crap to other companies (or ideally small local family farmers) producing nutritious sustainable food?

    I would like to see policies where fresh vegetables and fruits (etc) were given at least the same level of government corporate cronyism that junk food producers are given. But hey, that's just me. I know you work for the corporate overlords.
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      Aug 4 2011: Great point Jeffrey,

      The only way to get people to eat better and to feed their children in the same way is to make it financialy beneficial to do so!
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        Aug 5 2011: Yeah, that's right. It is so absurd the fact that healthier food are generally more expensive... Therefore, poorer people are kind of compelled to buy the less healthy food, which are cheaper... Why? I can't understand this.
        • Aug 8 2011: If you understand that the corporations that control food production and distribution are able to get a much higher profit margin off of junk food as opposed to real food, then you will understand why this is done.

        • Aug 9 2011: Since when is healthy food more expensive? A bundle of Kale is a $1.29. Sweet Potatoes cost dirt. The only thing that is expensive are proteins, and that you can scale accordingly.I'm tired of this myth being perpetuated. I fed 7 people last night for under 20 dollars, and it was healthy and exquisite. (BBQ'd Pork Tenderloin, Chipotle Sweet Potato Puree and Sauteed Kale...go do the math). Brown RIce is cheap. Greens are cheap. So many of the things that can make up a huge bulk of your diet are CHEAP. You just need to learn to cook them and you're good to go.
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          Aug 9 2011: If I chip in, can I be the eighth next time Jason. It sounds divine!
        • Aug 10 2011: I agree with Jason...
          Some boutique foods today (e.g. soups and stews, pizza, sausage, and some pasta dishes) originated as meals of the poor. In an attempt to reuse leftovers and otherwise unwanted cuts. The Irish lived of dairy and potatoes for a long time.
          As long as your selective, and know how to cook. You can always create a meal cheaper than processed food, because your not paying for service and labour (otherwise the cost of Jason's meal would probably increase by about 50% on labour alone).
          Quality food is more expensive (as it should be) and its a matter of debate at which point quality impacts nutrition.
        • Aug 10 2011: I primarily agree with Jason. I organize deliveries locally for a CSA and I teach the occasional cooking class on how to cook whole foods. So I know they can be cheap, but at the same time I worry about food deserts.

          Not only can it be VERY hard to find food like this, but these days a growing number of people in the US don't even have access to kitchen facilities. For these people junk food may be the only alternative. This is driven in part by subsidies that go to junk food production and almost none that go to the production and distribution of local healthy foods.
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      Aug 4 2011: absolutely wonderful idea. i also want to see fruit plantation subsidized at the same level as cocoa and tobacco farms. and that level, in my dream, would be zero.
      • Aug 4 2011: So in your dream food would be completely unimportant, or are you advocating a complete free market economy like they tried in countries like, er, Haiti?

        In your dream world, an interestingly revealing term BTW, the invisible hand of the market (not to be confused with the flying spaghetti monster whose noodled appendage should never be mistaken for a hand) would somehow, miraculously, provide incentives not to hoard and speculate on food?

        One thought did occur to me. It seems that you might be advocating for all farms to be staffed by squads of desperate child slaves. Is that true?
      • Aug 8 2011: I haven't attacked you, just the underlying assumptions in your thesis. If I'm wrong, feel free to refute my mistakes. I would welcome that.
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          Aug 8 2011: and i didn't say you did. i said i assume you are simply ignorant about my point. you didn't really care to follow it up or understand. and i just refuted it by stating "slavery is against freedom", which i happen to promote here. but you are welcome to show me how freedom can lead to slavery. good luck with it.
      • Aug 8 2011: Hmmmm. It would seem that we have been "lost in translation."

        However, I suspect that your idea of freedom are very different from mine in terms of how to achieve it. I am looking to promote the maximum freedom for the maximum number of people. You seem to be espousing free market ideology, which is a vehicle all too often for maximizing freedom for those best able to manipulate the economic system to their own benefit.

        My humblest apologies for my assumptions. They appear to have made an ass of me.
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          Aug 8 2011: you assert that with no arguments whatsoever. lack of economic freedom is lack of freedom, it is not too difficult to see. i fail to understand how would one promote freedom by banning actions of mutual consent. but if you can show how the free market makes people poorer, or how can anyone "manipulate the economic system" in a free market economy, go ahead.
        • Aug 9 2011: Let me take a stab at this. It's called concentration of wealth. When massive amounts of capital are concentrated in a small group of interests it can be used to move the market. Hell, that's common practice on the FOREX daily. A Free Market does not prevent this problem, and things tend to concentrate, which means that the dynamics of the market shift to overly reflect the needs/wants of the few.

          Although technically people are free to choose, in reality this usually just leads to oligopolies and violence. (Because hey, if me and my buddies have taken over, you're going to do what I say or else).
      • Aug 9 2011: You say "if you can show how the free market makes people poorer, or how can anyone "manipulate the economic system" in a free market economy, go ahead."

        I'm assuming you're familiar with the concept of monopolies, no?

        BTW - can you show me where I called for a ban on "actions of mutual consent" by which I think you mean commercial transactions. Is that true?
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          Aug 9 2011: yeah but it would be more precise to call it the myth of monopolies. because all the monopolies are created and maintained by the state. harmful monopolies have never ever come to life on a free market.

          you yourself said that you want to increase freedom which is in contradiction with economic freedom. which means you want to limit economic freedom. which means banning acts of mutual consent.
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    Aug 5 2011: I starkly disagree with the notion that giving children junk food is child abuse. On the contrary, I believe that not giving children junk food is child abuse. Junk food is not likely to disappear in the near future, and not giving children basic exposure to what's out there is setting them up to be unprepared to make correct decisions. Nutritionists and medical experts for years have argued on the true harms and values of sugary and fatty foods but the one constant rule of thumb that has lasted is that BALANCE is the key to a healthy lifestyle. If kids are not exposed to the harmful, they will never learn to make conscious healthy, balanced eating choices. Eating one candy bar never killed anyone. Eating hundreds is the issue at hand.
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      Aug 5 2011: BALANCE Remember that for petty much everything and you'll do good by it.

      Though I would add to the conversation by saying that Junk food in small qualities, isn't bad for you at all (assuming it isn't loaded with something truly nasty like carcinogens, and well toxins).

      Though in my believe feeding your child only "junk food" and giving them no other options should be considered child abuse. As well as allowing your child to grow morbidly obese. (thyroid conditions and the like aside)

      Make you children get up and do something(your included in this as well if your inactive) My mother made me go out and be active, I might be over weight (or procrastination how I love you.) but I'm much better off for it!
      • Aug 8 2011: I think it is important to understand that it is not child abuse by the parents but rather child abuse by the junk food companies who market directly to these kids and design (yes, design) foods to be specifically addictive to those that eat them.

        This puts them in the same class as drug dealers. I would never blame a parent per se, unless then pushed the needle into their kids arm...
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    Aug 5 2011: Yes it is child abuse. Malnourishment is abusive. Malnourishment can branch out to either a dearth in sustenance or an overabundance in certain chemicals concentrated in junk food that are insalubrious to the child. When you are giving the choice, starvation or death by hypertension/diabetes/cardiac arrest, you are asking would you either like to freeze or burn to death. Excuse the hyperbolic analogy.
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      Aug 5 2011: I like your hyperbolic analogy..... When I see a mother giving Coke for a baby to drink in his/her bottle, it hurts me... and I think: what mother on earth would do such an absurdity???
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    Aug 2 2011: Creating an environment in which junk food is the default food available is bad decision-making to say the least, but I wouldn't quite call it abuse. My parents always created an environment for my sister and me where we were encouraged to try new things, ate foods from a variety of different cultures, and educated us on nutrition, and as a result they don't have to order us around (well, most of the time they don't) when it comes to what we eat. I think it's a parent's responsibility to make sure kids are equipped with the reasons and information to make well-balanced decisions of their own.
  • Jul 31 2011: Giving junk food is not child abuse. People get way to hung up on the words "child abuse" . Just because something like junk food is not good for a child or any of us for that matter does not make giving it child abuse. The main reason children are over weight not because of the food but because they don't get any exercise. They sit on their fat backsides and play wii , play the computer, cell phone, and so on. Though they are not out riding their bikes, running all over the neighborhood and doing what kids should be doing being active and playing. We fill their heads with tech stuff , world problems and ton of other garbage but we have taken away from them the knowledge of how to be creative with nothing more than their mind and hands. We need to start booting kids out the door and into the yard to play without all the crazy tech stuff. Just the opinion of a 60 year old man who was around along before all this tech stuff and we ate pretty much anything we wanted but we never wanted to nor were we allowed to waist days sitting in the house watching tv and there weren't that many over weight kids either.
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    Jul 20 2011: I wouldnt say it was abuse, as the parents who do feed there children with junk food will most probably themselves be eating the same way.

    I think the challenge to change is a tough one, and lie greatly up to the government to step in and controll the big companies who make and sell the confectionery. These companies goal is profit, they don't care who gets fat or who dies from a heart attack from over indulging in fatty foods, all they want to see is the $$$ they make there food to taste good and BE ADDICTIVE to some extent. The more they can get the customer hooked the more reoccurring income they have.

    I hear people put down fat individuals and confectionry company's shifting the blame saying that "it's the own persons fault for being fat and unhealthy".

    To some degree sure that is true and makes sense, but open your eyes, at a young age kids taste there first sweet, "Mmm yum, I want more" this is where the parent comes in and have to control the amounts, but if the parent isn't educated, is addicted to some extent to junk food them seves or gives in to the current begging of their child well the kid will grow up with a habit, and when they have kids the process repeats.
     It is up to the individual to understand for them seves the risks, make some tough diet decisions, work up the will power to put it into practise and then have the streangh to see it out and not give in to the temptation of a delicious snack, which are broadcasted infront of us on a daily basis.
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      Jul 20 2011: you never will solve the issue by controlling the supply. you can't treat people as sheep that need a shepherd. you have to trust the people to be the shepherd of their own life.
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        Jul 20 2011: I'm not saying you need to control the people, but I think there is need to control the supply. Sure give the people information, and teach them what is good/bad for them, right and wrong.
        At the end of the day big corporations spend millions hiring experts to research better ways to sell produce and get keep people coming back for more. So by stepping aside and allowing the this to happen there is morally wrong, It is unfair. With the world how it is today, full of laws and inequality, i think it is absolutely necessary to Shepard the people to some extent, otherwise there is chaos.

         It's like letting a 10 year old kid getting beat up by a 15 year old kid who is bigger and stronger, and then saying "i shouldn't step in and and do anything, because that would be a reflection of my own view of what is right on wrong, it's the 10 years old kids life and I should let him live it without interference." even when it is clear it is an unfair fight.
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          Jul 21 2011: id rather see food inc and supersize me sent to every american household free of charge than having goverment intervine on the supply of junk food.
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          Jul 21 2011: no, it is not how it goes. no matter how many effort big companies put in advertising their junk food, it is simply well known that those are not healthy. the phony research results are usually employed not to convince the public, but to give politicians excuses not to act. and TV ads are not some hypnotic wizardry, anyone can ignore them.

          no, it is not like big corporations convinced people to eat junk. it is more like a cultural issue. a simple herd mentality. people eat what they parents and friends eat, and so on.

          your parallel with the kids stink exactly for that reason. nobody is forced to eat junk. you don't eat junk because the producer of junk food is smarter or stronger than you. it is a free choice. your example also stinks because the problem with the kids fighting is NOT that it is unfair. aggression is the problem there, and it is lacking in the junk food case.

          what we are observing here is the denial of responsibility. people want to shift responsibility from themselves to corporations. because it feels so sweet to continue to eat junk food, but blame someone else. nobody is willing to take the first step, and put some effort in changing the eating habits of their family. people don't want to make decisions and carry burdens. this is not acceptable.
        • Aug 9 2011: And where do food desert come into this assertion of yours Kristian? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_desert

          By controlling the supply and distribution and, in effect, creating virtual monopolies, food companies limit the access to healthy food for many poor people in industrialized nations, not to mention what they do in the 3rd world.

          When there are no options, how does choice enter into the equation?
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        Jul 21 2011: Tim, 

        I havnt seen food Inc, but have seen supersize me, I'm guessing food Inc is more of the same.

        The issues with this idea is that supersize me has a lot of misinformation in it and can be taken the wrong way. It's been a while since I've seen the program but from memory I believe it was about a guy have McDonalds for every meal, 7days a week over a certain period of time, and if they asked him if he wanted the next size up he had to say yes, and eat it all. Correct me if I'm wrong.

        This idea is just silly, sure if you eat McDonalds for every meal, especially stuffing yourself full, its not going to be healthy. If you have a limited diet of anything it's not going to be healthy. If you just eat fruit and Nothing els its not going to be the best for you.

        The program gives the impression that eating McDonald or fast food ever day for ever meal is not health, which is correct it just limits the idea to fast food when it should be saying that eating too much of anything is not good for you and you should have a balanced diet.
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        Jul 21 2011: You say that “TV ads are not some hypnotic wizardry, anyone can ignore them” i wouldn’t go as far as saying that they are wizardry but hypnotic, yeah maybe to some extent, and they defiantly aren’t easy to ignore. Think of how many catchy jingles to commercials you know, even though you haven’t been paying full attention to the add

        Of course big corporations convince you to eat junk food; to say that they don't is to say that there is no advertising for these foods, which simply is not true. If you made a product you would want to sell that product to people, and to do that you have to tell people they want it, they need it. I do agree with it also being a herd mentality as well.

        The example with the kid isn’t about aggression, the point is that it’s unfair, which it is. To some degree you do eat junk food because the producer is smarter and stronger, they are obviously stronger, as they are probably a big corporation, and smarter because it is there job to target you and they know how to make you buy things. They research every little detail on how to make you buy their product. A younger kid getting bullied by a much bigger and stronger kid is as unfair as a big junk food corporations target individuals to buy their product by any means legal to them.

        I don't see how controlling the source is a bad thing, stepping in and looking after the people when you see that someone isn’t playing fair or by the rules. Just like a parent looks after their child, they allow them to make their own decisions, but guide them and inform them when they may not be seeing clearly. You could say that people aren’t children and should be mature and grown up enough to make their own decisions, but that would be plain ignorant to the fact that this is not an equal world, and some people need a help in hand, and direction. It’s just not acceptable to tell everyone to harden up and just do it.
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          Jul 21 2011: answer me one simple question that forks into two:

          do you personally buy any products not because you want it but because corporations convinced you with advertisement? do you buy products you don't need and don't want, because someone "hypnotized" you to do so?

          and it forks into two as:

          if not, why do you think that you are better than most? why do you think many people can't decide for themselves, but you can?

          if yes, why do you think that it is anyone else's fault and not yours? why don't you simply stop doing that, and buy useful and enjoyable products? how does this influence even works? you feel your hand reaching out for a chocolate bar, and you can't stop it? or you feel burning desire, and a voice in head?

          you are still trying to blame corporations for the faults of the people themselves. you still attempt to "look after" adult, self-reliant individuals. stop doing that, it damages personality, clouds reality and causes even deeper trouble.
        • Aug 9 2011: Yes Kristian, corporations spend 100's of millions a year in advertising because, gosh darn it, it just makes them feel good about themselves. They have no other reason whatsoever and are completely innocent.

          But some person without the education or knowledge to know that they are being lied to and fed what many scientists consider to be poison, they are completely responsible for the actions of themselves AND the corporations.

          I get it. The blinds have been lifted from my eyes. Alleluia. Praise Jeebus. Thank you lord. Now pass me a twinkie or 3.
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        Jul 22 2011: Personally yes I do sometimes buy products that I do not need and sometimes didn't particular want. Have you ever walk into a shop and needed 1 bag of chips, but there is a sight saying buy 2 get one free, you don't really need the extra two bags but you think it's a good deal as you will be saving money in the long run and can use the other two bags later down the track. There for the company's marketing has succeeded in making you but things you didn't really need. The super markets strategically place items they want to sell more of on the shelves that are just below eye level, because research says that people's heads tend to sag a little and this is their direct line of sight. The waiting isle at the super market or petrol station are lined with chocolate and snacks, because when you sit there waiting looking at them there is a good chance you will just grab one.

        Here is one which is totally relevant and I have done it in the past, chocolate bars are usually $1.80 or so at the super market, so I will buy say 5 (one a day for work) 
        Sometimes they go on special for $1.00 so I buy 10 because I can save money in the long run, but I end up eating twice as much in the same week, I wouldn't of bought twice as many if they wernt cheap, the company's know this and market it in that way. 

        You can say that It was all my fault and I should of held off, and yeah you are right, I'm not blaming anyone els, but hey it's not a perfect world. The point is that if the temptation isn't there it helps a lot, so why not help people out a little and reduce the temptation. If there where no laws on speeding how many people would speed? This is totally relevant in the sense that the government has seen a potential harm and as well as informing the people of the danger they also limit the chance someone does it anyway by penalizing you.

        I would love if people could control them selves, be honest, righteous but unfortunately we are not there yet and need the help of a higher power.
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          Jul 23 2011: so the situation is this: you can't resist to eat double amount of chocolate if it is cheap. so you plan to ban special prices to protect yourself. even if special prices has no such detrimental effect on me and on a lot of others. you want to take away special prices from me, to protect yourself. you want to take away that opportunity from the poorest, who can afford it only at special price. is this sounds okay? why don't you, instead, work on your own shortcomings?

          how about this proposal here: X is an awful driver, he cannot focus for more than one minute, often creates dangerous situations, caused multiple minor accidents already. but he can't resist taking the driver's seat, because it is so tempting, it is so easy to get around with a car. so X proposes to ban driving altogether. X wants a law that bans civilian (non-professional) driving. X would be much more relaxed, since he would not feel the temptation anymore, and would not put many people at risk with his careless driving. how about that proposal? why is it any worse or different than your proposal?
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        Aug 1 2011: No where have I made a proposal that comes close to the scenario you have put forward. relating your scenario to the subject, would be to say that you should ban all junk food. I have no such proposal anywhere, plus you seem to be missing my point completely.

        The point is that it is difficult to live a healthy lifestyle, especially when you have big corporations target marketing you junk food, the proof is all around you, just look at all the obese people. 

        The only this I have proposed is that the government, or a strict watch dog come in to make sure big corporations are playing fair. Like I have said before, this already happens in a lot of areas, please read my last comment again and try to focus on the points about company's sly advertisement, and government seeing potential harm and making laws to protect, not looking for ammo to attack me on a personal level.

        You don't seem to be adding very much constructive thought or ideas to the debate we are having, but more taking examples I have made and twisting them to Imply that I personally can not control my eating habits, so am trying to blame corporations for it. These are only examples, I personally do not eat meat, or dairy as of last year and it is tough. I am also aware of the way things are marketed to people, so i do have compassion for people and understand that it can be hard to follow a cleaned diet and give up the junk. 

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          Aug 1 2011: you are just reiterating your previous points without digesting what i'm trying to tell you. the very notion that marketing makes your task harder demonstrates the fact that you are indeed not in full control what you buy. and you plan to solve that problem by regulating the sellers. drop the unnecessary details, and focus on the main issue.

          1. do you think that you buy stuff you don't want and don't need *because* corporations convinced you by advertising?

          2. do you want to solve that problem with limiting how corporations can advertise their products?

          based on what you said here, both answers are true. all other details are irrelevant. calling companies "sly" and their practices "unfair" is just a dead weight on the conversation, aimed at clouding the otherwise crystal clean situation.
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          Aug 2 2011: Unfortunately the government is essentially the root to a lot of these problems. Just about all of the junk food, and fast food we put into are bodies come from massive farm corporations. A vast majority of what these companies produce is corn. Not even the type of corn we can eat, but corn used to make sugars and all the artificial flavorings, as well as to feed all of the cattle, pig, and poultry that become our meat product. This is also a very inefficient process that would normally cost companies more that they can ever hope to gain. The government though subsidized this industry heavily, driving the price of all the products down. It is from this we get all of our dollar menu products, and cheap junk food.

          For one of my college classes I was required to read the book 'The Omnivore's Dilemma' it goes over the entire process in detail and is where I learned this. I highly recommend it.
        • Aug 9 2011: For me I have no desire to tax foods ( as such taxes are regressive and place a disproportionate burden on those least able to afford them and least able to avoid them) or to ban advertising. If someone wants to pay money to a TV station for the expressed purpose of lying their asses off, then let them have at it.

          However I am also for removing subsidies that support the artificially low prices on nutritionally void "food" resembling products and perhaps moving those subsidies (perhaps with a phase out) over to foods that are local, sustainable, and nutritious.

          Does anyone think these ideas have merit?
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        Aug 3 2011: Who is in full control of what they buy?
        That is not my plan, as I do not intent do put it into action (today anyway). But yes it is my idea that I thought was worth spreading.
        “Do you think that you buy stuff you don't want and don't need *because* corporations convinced you by advertising?”
        Yes, well i more believe that corporation convinces you that you need them. You’re not just going to but something if you don’t think you need it. But if i think i need that breast implant for all the boys to like me, that TV the of a cinema so i can see it better, or that double coated chocolate bad because you think it will bring me more pleasure than the carrot. That yes I’m going to buy it, i dint need it yesterday, but after seeing that commercial and reading that magazine i need it now...

        “Do you want to solve that problem with limiting how corporations can advertise their products?”
        Yes, to some degree, i would do my research first, or better yet leave it up to the experts. I do not think it would solve the situation but i don’t see how it could make t worse. If we only saw advertisement of fresh fruit and vegetables and where told how delicious they where, don’t you think that that would have some kind of impact?

        You have your ideas and beliefs and i have mine i, i don’t think we are going to change ether point of view, as i feel the lack of respect from both sides. But thank you for being a part in the debate, and I’m sure it was interesting for onlookers 

        Jesse, i will look up that book one day, thanks.
      • Aug 3 2011: I agree with Krisztián Pintér, food companies should have NO restrictions put on them. It should be legal for them to add cocaine, heroine or any other addictive additive to their foods that they want. And they shouldn't be required to do anything so wishy washy as put their ingredients on a label. If the caveat can't emptor then too darned bad. It is up to the individual to self monitor no matter what. And if they can't or won't pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get off their addictions, then that is their problem.

        Do I need to put a sarcasm tag here?
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          Aug 3 2011: no need for the tag, better delete the entire comment, because it lacks arguments or points
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          Aug 3 2011: Nice one. You forgot to mention that, as the point that people go from being a kid to an accountable adult is a totally arbitrary -and possibly meaningless- age, the kids should be taking the responsibility for getting fat, not their parents and certainly not Macdonalds. Bloody kids eh?...
      • Aug 8 2011: I don't see why not. It's what food companies do everyday.
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    Jul 20 2011: No.
    Junk food is harmless in a healthy dose. Abuse is when you do not take care of the child's health.
    Giving ONLY junk food to kids is abuse.
    Giving junk food to NEW BORN baby is abused.
    Giving junk food to kids is not enough to constitute abuse.
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    Aug 11 2011: While I see your point, Tsepang, I cannot truly equate "junk food givers" with child abuse. Would you call a poverty striken parent who has no food so gives no food to a child an abuser? I wouldn't. Would you call a parent who can only afford a box of unhealthy macaroni and cheese who then gives it to a child an abuser? I wouldn't. My point is that junk food is much cheaper than healthy food, and those in poverty feed their children what they can.

    Another point I would like to make about junk food is it is lack of education more than abuse that causes parents to feed children this stuff. I watched Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, and while it wasn't a scientific study by any means, I was quite shocked when he showed that teenagers in a poor area of Los Angeles did not know where food came from! I also saw that as people learned about good food versus junk food, they began to choose good food. I cannot speak for South Africa, but I posit that it is not abuse, but a mixture of reasons why those in the U.S. eat junk food.

    I can't imagine placing those who beat, purposefully starve, break bones, mentally abuse are in the same category as a loving parent who feeds a child junk food. There are just too many reasons why that might happen that are not coming from a place of abuse. And if it is not poverty, then education is needed, not the harsh arm of the law.
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      Aug 14 2011: @ Monica..... Right On! Obesity is becoming a physical marker in the US for class status. Rich people have someone at home to shop for and prepare fresh foods. Poor people have none such. and if they did they cannot afford fresh bok choy ($2.00 a pound) or tomatoes, and since they are not shopping, cooking and showing their children how to eat, they are propagating the status of junk food eaters.

      Junk food essentially is any food whose constituents are subsidized by the government of the US (mostly corn and corn products for example which is where high fructose corn syrup comes from). If such agrigiants didn't control Congress, we might shout loud enough to get responsible laws and regulations to encourage reasonable food, health care and nutrition.

      (I sound like a Trotskyite, don't I?)
      • Aug 15 2011: This is an education issue. Let's go shopping. You buy only pre-packaged, processed junk food, and I'll buy nothing but healthy foods. I guarantee you I will fill my cart for less than you. Its not about cost, it's about kitchen skills and knowledge. I can make a pot of healthy Chili for about 8 dollars and feed 6 people. Or you can buy a box of Hamburger Hell-per for 3 bucks, and combine it with the ground beef and have utter crap for approximately the same cost.

        Buy an onion, a bunch of spinach, a clove of garlic, sautee them together with some lemon jiuce and dried chiles - 2 Dollars total cost.

        Buy Sweet Potatoes. Roast them, mash them with some Adobo sauce. 5 bucks.

        You can buy boxes of pasta for less than KD. Buy a can of tomaotes for a dollar, an onion, a clove of garlic, some basil...feed 6 for the same price as 2 boxes of KD, and you'll be light years healthier.

        I think one of the problems with most "Nutrition Experts" is that they are militant about it. Only the leanest meats, and best vegetable and blah blah blah. You don't need to eat THAT good to eat healthy. Everyone can improve their diets exponentially by just learning how to cook, and adjusting their schedules to make time and MAKE IT A PRIORITY.
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          Aug 15 2011: "....It's not about cost, it's about kitchen skills and knowledge. I can make a pot of healthy Chili for about 8 dollars and feed 6 people..." I agree. And I think you've helped me make my point that it is not child abuse.
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          Aug 19 2011: Way to go Jason. And the flavour of fresh food, the nutritional value and the joy of eating it!!!
    • Aug 19 2011: To say that it is not abuse to put a child in the condition of the picture linked below is, in my opinion, immoral and thoughtless.


      Yes, this is an extreme. I do feel it illustrates the point that there is a line where a parent's behavior in their child's diet has to be labeled as harmful to that child.
  • Sonya L

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    Aug 8 2011: I'm not going to hide that I'm a libertarian. I wholeheartedly disagree with this.It's one thing starve a child to death but considering feeding them too much junk food as child abuse is outrageous. I understand the passion people have about protecting all children from harms way but this strips away parental freedom. We need that freedom to make mistakes and learn from them to make better choices in the future. The government cannot step in and take that right away. Yes some parents will not learn and think it's ok, but who am I to come in and stop them?Nutrition is an ongoing science. What I think is unhealthy for my children maybe what other parents consider healthy. I'm planning on avoiding dairy and wheat in my future childrens diet due to my own research. I don't think those things are ment for the human body and I want the freedom to do what I think is best for my children.
  • Aug 5 2011: eating junk food in small quantities is not bad ...but this small quantities is provided daily like routine work to children may drag them under addiction..children may addicted to only those junk foods and in future they may increase their doses and as said eating one is not bad but eating 100 is the issue.. so yes i think its an child abuse....
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      Aug 5 2011: You are correct that junk food addiction may occur if feeding gets out of hand, but I don't think a little every day is harmful. Developing a routine where you give children for example 3 cubes of chocolate after dinner daily allows the child to understand that this is an appropriate quantity. These three cubes of chocolate need to be regularly labeled as a treat that is not to be abused. Children are capable of making their own eating decisions pretty much from the beginning of elementary school. If they don't receive junk food at home, they will get it elsewhere. Trust me, I was one of those kids who always traded in their carrot sticks for rice krispy treats. If junk food is available at home, children won't be as drawn to indulging in candy every opportunity they get.
      • Aug 8 2011: Would you also give your children cigarettes. Pardon the hyperbole because of course, as a responsible parent, you wouldn't do that. But the additives in junk food are dangerous to long term health.

        For example, did you know that refined white sugar effectively shuts down the immune system (stops it from responding) for up to 4 hours? (I'm pretty sure about the 4 hour window time bu my usual source for all things research related, our clinics medical director, is out of the office today). So in a way, if you give your child refined sugar daily, then you are indeed increasing their exposure to disease as well as increasing their likelihood of developing diabetes or insulin resistance and the usually associated hypertension and obesity driven diseases.

        This toxin load is a new thing in human genetic history and while we don't yet understand the complete picture, we do know that the trend is not encouraging.

        For more research related info I would suggest the institute of functional medicine.
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          Aug 9 2011: I think that I understand your point but am not so sure I agree. You are right that a responsible parent wouldn't give their children cigarettes, just like a responsible parent wouldn't give a child excess sweets. However, just like a responsible parent wouldn't always forbid all junk food, a responsible parent wouldn't completely block off exposure to cigarettes. If they were to completely forbid cigarettes, they would make them that much more attractive to children. In my opinion, the right thing to do is to educate children on the harms of cigarettes, maybe even let them try one in a supervised environment, and then let them make their own decision.

          You are right, junk food is dangerous on the long term. Nonetheless, there is no reason to be extreme. In the right environment where junk food is given in moderation the risks are severely decreased. There are many risks in this world and those induced by a bit of sugar don't need to be dramatized. There are also studies that show that sweets in moderation can actually be beneficial.
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    Aug 5 2011: Although it’s harmful to give children junk food, I wouldn’t go as far as saying that it is child abuse. First of all, it depends on the quantity of junk food a child is given. Second, it depends on whether or not parents acknowledge that junk food is harmful. Believe it or not, some people still don’t agree with the fact that junk food has little or no health benefits (or they just don’t want to admit it). Hence, it’s hard for individuals who have this belief to recognize that giving junk food to their child is abuse.
    So, the way I see it, the issue is not only about what parents feed their children, but what is available out there: When a plate of French-fries is cheaper than a plate of salad, of course most people will go for the fries (unless of course they love salad and/or are financially stable). So are parents really at fault or does the problem actually lie on policy makers for keeping junk food so cheap and healthy food so expensive?
  • Aug 4 2011: it's abuse from the the companies marketing in ways that help the other companies that benifit from us being sick with diseases...What is it? ..is it their belief system? Capitalism lacks a soul...
    what do they think and say in the boardrooms?
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      Aug 5 2011: Yeah. I also keep wondering about this too.
  • Aug 2 2011: I think that it isn't exactly abuse, because the real problem is teaching kids how to maintain a healthy diet. Junk food is not bad in moderation. I think kids (and sometimes their parents) reach for junk food because it is already prepared and it tastes good.

    To fix this problem, we need to educate kids and parents about developing good eating habits. Limiting the source will not teach people to eat properly, it will only make people mad that they can't get what they want. If you teach them, what they want will change from junk food to healthier alternatives.
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    Jul 29 2011: It probably would be if we didn't have so many diversions to deal with. I believe their is a town in America that it is illegal to have non organic food...uhh you guessed it crime rate zero. The processed food keeps people numb and animal like. But the reality is we know what we know and we don't know what we don't know.I trust that more and more people are waking up.
    • Jul 29 2011: Is this a new conspiracy theory?
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        Jul 29 2011: Conspiracy ... yes. New .. no. :)
        • Jul 30 2011: " I believe their is a town in America that it is illegal to have non organic food (crime rate zero???)"

          Where did you hear this one?

          " The processed food keeps people numb and animal like."

          Do you think the government is controlling our minds with the HAARP project also? Maybe they used it to cause the tsunami in Japan?

          "I trust that more and more people are waking up"

          Theories like these make me believe the opposite. Do you have any real information to back your claim up? Any kind of evidence at all that this grand conspiracy exists? It is the inability of people to think on their own, truly educate themselves, and discern reliable information from the vast amount of misinformation in the world that makes me think that more and more people are in need of "waking up".
  • Jul 28 2011: Less than 5 minutes ago: If parents are smoking, is smoking in the vicinity of a child abuse? If parents are having a beer, is sharing it with their children abuse? If parents are using drugs, is offering them to their offspring abuse? Not heating their house? Binding their feet?

    Of course, big business is abusing all of us. However, adults are expected to make considered, mature decisions (whether they do, or not), but children are dependent on both the sustenance and the notions of their adult families. Feeding them food that makes them sick or affects their minds is abusive.
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    Jul 25 2011: I think it is bad that some children are brought up on junk/bad food. But.... bad food is cheap food, and if people can't afford good food, who is to blame? What can you do?

    But yes, for the parents that let their children eat McDonald's everyday... We only have to watch 'Supersize Me' to see what effect it can have. Its abuse and neglect at the same time - they're paying for the food, but are also not thinking about the consequences!
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    Jul 23 2011: No, it's not except in extreme cases where there is more going on then "menu preferences".

    Where it is a crime is when schools provide junk food as lunch, etc. It is our responsibility as educators to walk the walk of education and that includes educating children about healthy habits.
    • Jul 23 2011: http://alwayssick.com/2011/07/13/should-child-obesity-be-considered-child-neglect-or-endangerment/

      The above article handles this topic in detail.

      What do you mean by "menu preferences"?
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        Jul 23 2011: I've been following the debate on whether or not parents should be held responsible for what their children eat. I think they should. The question is what to do about it? The issue of obesity is in many ways the elephant in the room when it comes to education (excuse the pun). It affects so much else in a young person's life from self image to health problems and everything in between.

        Rather than taking the children away from parents as a strategy for remediating the problem, I think the better strategy is represented by Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" Campaign to fight obseity.


        The Let's Move Campaign has been steadily gathering momemntum over the past year and is now making some real progress.Education is key.

        I know that the proposal to take children away from parents also involves an educational component, but to take a child away from a parent is destructive in and of itself, so I say "No" to that.

        As I said earlier, there are some extreme cases, I'm sure, where there is serious neglect/abuse going on in the home that includes feeding a child nothing but tons of junk food, but I don't consider the feeding of junk food to be the root cause of the neglect/abuse. There are other more serious issues at play. In those cases yes, take the child out of harm's way.

        Side note: Ive been involved in another conversation on TED where I made the statement that in affluent socieites such as ours even the poor are well-fed. There are politics involved in almost everything. There are other factors at play.Avoiding starvation is now within our grasp. Eating healthy is not - but we're gaining ground on it!
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    Jul 21 2011: As I scroll over the conversation I find that no links have been shared... Check out TED Prize winner 2010 - Jamie Oliver http://www.tedprize.org/jamie-oliver/
    Or watch his talk directly on http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/jamie_oliver.html
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      Jul 24 2011: Yes, Jamie Oliver is offering real solutions to the problem. So is the Let's Move Campaign to fight obesity:


      There is also a movement in education to address the issue of what happens to your body when food enters it. It includes an emphasis on fresh foods grown locally. Garden patches are springing up next to school playgrounds. Teachers are beginning to understand how to integrate nutrition with other parts of the curriculum.

      Everyone take a moment to write a letter to your local paper encouraging them to start a school garden. If your community has already done it, take a moment to publicly congratulate them and support them by getting involved, volunteering or contributing in some other way.
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      Jul 24 2011: Forgot to mention this great effort by Adam Burk:


      This guy is walking the walk.
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      Jul 24 2011: As I've said, to brand parents as criminals for not providing healthy foods to their children is to open a can of worms.

      In fact, I think it is this kind of well-intentioned but poorly thought-out idea that gives progressives a bad name. Those who oppose ANY change simply because it upsets their comfortable lifestyle will point to this as proof that progressives are left-wing extremists. I say we should very vocally oppose efforts like criminalizing poor parenting and instead promote what we believe to be the solution: education.

      Some other thoughts on the subject:

      Truer words have never been spoken than, "You are what you eat". Every day we medicate ourselves. All of us from time to time make bad choices. But knowing fully the connection between eating and quality of life can be a real game changer.

      Another dead-on true statement is "we are creatures of habit". Changing eating habits is among the most difficult challenges in life. Harder than quitting smoking. Substituting good habits for bad habits is what Rehab is all about. If we could all afford a personal trainer and personal chef life would most certainly be better. But we can't. So we are left with ourselves and each other to stay healthy. We need help - not punishment.

      If I could have a 5-minute massage every time I craved a piece of devil's food chocolate fudge cake I would take the massage.

      One of life's tragic ironies: Affluent societies worry that over-eating will kill them while other societies worry that a lack of food will kill them.

      I think healthy eating is a bellwether habit. That is, if we have that under control we are probably in a good place in many other respects. It's just that so much is connected to our diet. Like our health, our self image, etc.

      "Everything in moderation" is not the solution - but it can be an intermediate step in the process of becoming healthier.
  • Jul 20 2011: Well abuse is classified by the deliberate act of doing harm. This would fall under the category of neglect. Not taking proper care of a child's need either because they do not have the means or because of ignorance would be neglect. Not giving enough food or giving too much are both detrimental to the child but one can hardly call it abuse. Unfortunately be it abuse or not, the child will suffer both ways. Abuse is direct while neglect is indirect. The effects of neglect accumulate until something gives. That will be either the child's health or their sanity.

    A fat kid will be abused by those around him by bullies or just normal people ignoring him and undervaluing him. Parents are not gods but in my opinion some people should never have kids. Just look online at some of them. I wish there was a course in parenting that prospective parents would have to take before having a child but that is a system that will be abused. People will just have to deal with it as it arises we can not save every child from the scum of the earth or from the fools.

    Why am i so emotional you say, the internet is full of kids that look like mini balloons. The weak minded parents without the ability to say no, blame everyone else but themselves. How stupid can one get when everyone looks at your kid in disgust and you see no problem... sorry i'm ranting again. Stupid people do that to me............
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    Aug 17 2011: This is a wonderful topic, Tsepang.

    I am a resident of Michigan, one of the United States' most obese states. Many of my fellow peers that I've gone to school with are obese or have other health problems that can be associated with their diet. This is because of the food that is provided for them is unhealthy.
    It all goes back to funding and government subsidies. Many soda pop companies and chip companies have deals with the school districts that provide lunch for our young children. Frito Lay and Pepsi companies are actually subsidized, meaning that they are given money to make more of their product. My old high school actually has a contract with Pepsi, stating that the only beverages that can be sold by the school can only be Pepsi products. This is an outrage. These contracts and subsidies make the product cheaper to buy.
    With that, Frito corn chips are cheaper than apples or asparagus. Soda pop is cheaper than milk. Any family stricken by poverty really has no choice but to buy what is affordable to them, in this case, the unhealthier foods. I grew up in an inner city district, a lot of my fellow peers grocery shop at the Dollar General Store; their supper consisting of Faygo brand grape soda and Doritos.
    Back to your main question. Is this abuse? I would definitely have to say no. However, I would greatly consider it to be neglect. Abuse is on a far greater level. Somebody has the choice to abuse or not ie: physical or verbal abuse. But when ones financial abilities are cut short from poverty, they really have no choice but to provide the unhealthy and more affordable food for themselves and their children.
  • Aug 16 2011: ps and pls do not feed children with to much food , to many young mothers make it a race to see them grow , but they not only grow in lenght .....
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    Aug 16 2011: I believe that it would be wrong to class regularly giving junk food to Children as Child Abuse.
    Child Abuse is far too strong a term to use, and it definitely wouldn't deserve the same punishments as other types of Child Abuse. If the parent of the child was deliberately giving the child food knowing exactly that the food was unhealthy and doing so with intent to cause poor health to the child; that'd be child abuse.

    I think that children should have regular nurse visits to their schools, who would be their to check the height and weight of a child in search of understanding the child's level of health. If the child is deemed to be under or overweight the nurse can encourage the child to eat healthy, exercise and converse with the parents about what food they have been giving the child, how often do they exercise etc. In cases of extreme neglect for the Child's Health, then inquests can be made by Social Services.
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    Aug 16 2011: No, I don't think that feeding junk food to children is a form of child abuse. Child abuse generally falls into three categories: (1) physical abuse, (2) sexual abuse, and (3) neglect. Perhaps you could make a case that feeding kids a poor diet is a form of neglect, but this would be a difficult one to make, considering that the habit of feeding junk food to kids is most common among those of lower socio-economic classes. Why? A combination of two reasons: (1) it's less expensive to feed kids junk food than healthy, fresh food and whole grains, and (2) nutritional information, interesting recipes, and the leisure time to cook are generally granted to the more affluent classes. Thus, rather than attempting to punish parents for feeding children junk food, I suggest that a better course of action consists of making healthy food readily accessible to children and their families.
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    Aug 16 2011: Wonderful food for thought, kudos...(haha) Bad joke, ok. I for one appreciate the question. I do admit in advance that I am not a parent. I have studied through 14 grueling semester units of Child Development. Does that make me an expert? Absolutely not. Am I an expert on common sense? You can bet your two butt cheeks on that! This is a huge issue as every person here is already aware of. How many Presidential fitness campaigns need to be put into affect until the FDA begins to get involved? See where I'm going with this? One can easily be angered at an obese child's parents for allowing them to become fat and/or unhealthy, but the fact of the matter remains our govt. just does not care. Do you really believe that you can place enough pressure on individual family parenting to make a difference? I personally think "no".
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    Aug 15 2011: Yes, Parents and relatives have to understand it.
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    Aug 15 2011: I feel that ultimately it comes down to lack of education and/or laziness. It isn't fair to label someone as a "child abuser" if they themselves don't understand what nourishment specifically means. If they grew up going to bed hungry then perhaps in their eyes as long as their child has a full tummy they are doing a good job. As for laziness, that can go 2 ways. Too lazy to cook a healthy meal, therefore feeding their children processed junk food... or too lazy to put in the effort it sometimes takes to have children eat healthy food. In any case, It is a problem and not one to be ignored. Hopefully those who step up to support these families go forth armed with lots of resources and compassion. Chances are if the child eats that way then the parent does as well and may not be functioning as well as they could.
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    Aug 15 2011: It's a valid question but I would argue that MANY parents are doing something about this. I think there are two types of child abuse, one that is intentionally malicious and cruel and one that is born out of ignorance. Like so many problems is tends to be socioeconomic, with the poor having to find food in the middle of "food deserts", with no option to feed their children an adequate diet. So, should these parens face reprimand? I've seen parents smoking cigarettes in their car with their kids in the back seat, is this child abuse? I've seen parents listening to popular country music with their kids-child abuse...Jk but the other example is valid. I imagine that it is cyclical and instead of punishing, we need to educate. The problem is we already ask too much of our educators.
    The problem of childhood obesity is a symptom of a very sick society.

    Thanks for the topic!
  • Aug 10 2011: No, I don't believe so. Unless it is a deliberate act I can not see how it is as serious. Junk food tends to be cheaper than other food, and some families may resort to it due to income. Junk food can still be eaten as part of healthy diet (in moderation) and so still no. In addition, some may argue this is like arguing smacking children as part of disciplining a child is abuse. And, a teenager who was smacked as a kid, I would say that that is not abuse either, it helps a child to learn lessons in life and shows them that the adult is in charge. I know that is not quite the same but I think you get my point.
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    Aug 10 2011: I wouldn't say child abuse, more parents are uneducated on foods. Our nation as in us needs to step up, and offer more healthier alternatives. As easy as it is to get a Big Mac at McDonlads, the same should be for an organic piece of healthy meat.
  • Aug 10 2011: Jason - I disagree that there is some myth about healthy food being more expensive. Let's compare similar things. I can feed 8 spaghetti for about 4 USD using a can of cheap spaghetti sauce and 99cent noodles 8USD if I want to add really cheap (as in high fat) hamburger meat. To make a similar quantity of sauce that doesn't contain a bunch of sugar and chemicals and a healthier noodle would be in the range of 10 to 15 USD closer to 20 if I use ground turkey or a low fat meat. And that doesn't get into organic, or factor in time to make it rather than throw it together out of a bottle. I know families of 8 that the 4lb pork roast you are talking about represents a significant portion of their weekly (if not bi-weekly) meat budget.

    To compare eating at fast food places. To go to McD's or similar I can get a meal for $5-$6. To go to a similar style place that sells turkey burgers etc I'll be lucky to get a burger alone for $8.

    Doritos I can buy a huge bag for about $3 Apples $.80 - $1.20 ea. Again without looking at organics.

    It's easy to point at some random healthy item and say its "only" $1.00 but point at it again and say "that's one quarter of my meal budget." Then start looking at prices.
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    Aug 10 2011: Child always chooses food by the taste he/she likes,especially for sweety food. But a baby can't know too much sugar is a problem for health. What we need do is to tell them the bad things will happen once having too much sweety food. " Do you like your teeth black or white?Too much sugar will bring you black teeth and ugly looking." Normally, Child, as well as adults,likes to be good looking. They will accpet our suggestion to eat as less junk food as possible.
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    Aug 9 2011: I don't believe it's child abuse, but there is a certain level of sugars children shouldn't exceed. Adults also share a diet that's recommended by workers in the health field. All food gives and takes a little on whether it improves our help or not. It's just that while still under a parent, kids aren't old enough take responsibility of their health. So yes, over doing it is child abuse, but in a lighter form. Much of doing this can be linked to the love of fulfilling our childrens needs. Giving food has been ranked as one of the most appreciated gestures in our human history. Let's not direct this to being serious enough to be a crime here.
  • Aug 9 2011: Nothing in terms of legislation should be done. It is not our place to impose values on people, and it isn't abuse in the traditional sense. What is required is strong investment in education, and a realization that it is important beyond core disciplines. Good nutrition is fundamental to good development, and we should be promoting and supporting that in our schools through lunch programs. In other words, if people are educated about things like nutrition, they will generally make better choices, and in the long run this will sort itself out.

    I believe the problem we run into is people have a lot of information, but not a lot of education. They know they should eat certain things, but they don't know how much, what to serve it with, how to cook it and they're short on time to boot. These are problems that can be overcome, but they require education. Provide that, and everything else sorts itself out naturally, for the most part.
  • Aug 9 2011: Ok - probably not.

    I hope someday you find your Shangri-La. Hopefully you will find yourself in the ownership class rather than find yourself as one of the serfs.

    Or perhaps not.
  • Aug 9 2011: How about the myth of free market economies. They have not ever existed and every time they have been tried they have been a failure in terms of economy and freedom. Chile?
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    Aug 9 2011: According to some research that has been done about the health of so called junk-food it isn't that bad after all. What is bad is the amount that is eaten. Junk food is rich in energy so you need less but the taste of it gives the urge to eat more.
    In another research they compared the food that the French consumed with that of the average American to understand why the French didn't grow as big as Americans do. Again what they found is that there was no difference in composition of nutrition’s but that the average person in France ate half the amount an American did.
  • Aug 9 2011: Who mentioned extreme behavior? But given that you have brought it up, do you think it is within parental rights to deny their children access to junk food if they are able. In other words are you actually arguing that a parent advocating a good healthy diet is an extremist? Seriously?

    And yes there are studies that show that sugar use is beneficial, and much like the studies that show that drinking wine in moderation, or smoking are just fine are all too often initiated and funded by the same industries that sell those products, and, interestingly, the often submarine any studies that they fund that would show what there marketing departments DON'T want to see.

    Of course it is unlikely that giving sweets to your child daily will have life ending consequences, unless of course your child has genetic dispositions that are keyed on by exposure to certain substances or if their immune system is suppressed at a key moment when they critically need it such as when they might be exposed to drug resistant staph or MRSA.

    Having said that, don't forget to feed their souls. And honestly a good dark chocolate does that for me. My favorite is the chocolate from Venezuela which is, sin duda, the best in the world. Buen Provecho.
  • Aug 9 2011: I feel that a minimum level of junk food won't hurt your health but not providing your children with proper nutrition is a form of neglect that has possibly deadly consequences that reach into adulthood. I don't believe there will ever be way of enforcing such neglect through any sort of regulatory body. What are people going to do call social services on the overweight kids parents? Proper education in nutrition for children and parents may be the only way out of this mess.
  • Aug 8 2011: Bwahahahahahaha. " if you can show how the free market makes people poorer, or how can anyone "manipulate the economic system" in a free market economy, go ahead."

    Are you honestly asserting that manipulation is not part of market economics (outside of text books from the chicago school of economics and select libertarian fantasy lands?)?

    Of course poverty could be equated to slavery metaphorically speaking and a minimum of economic income does equate to a certain type of freedom. But you seem to be equating freedom with money. In my opinion freedom is a separate entity from economic systems. While intertwined they are not the same.

    A similar misunderstanding is also common in terms of political and economic systems, often equating democracy with free market economies.

    Am I wrong in assuming that you are a fan of the chicago school of economics?

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      Aug 8 2011: of course you are free to twist the meaning of words. you can call a person sitting in front of a flat TV a slave, because he is earning only USD 28000 a year, which is more than i make as a computer programmer. if this is your idea of a "metaphor", well, i can't think of any answer good enough to convince you.

      you are also free to call your opponent's ideas "fantasy islands" and "text book". it certainly saves you from the burden of arguing.

      i don't know who equates democracy with economic freedom. a source would be nice. till that, i must assume this exists only in your head. hint: state and free economy is a contradiction. you can't have both. and if there is no state, what democracy gives you? democracy contradicts economic freedom. honestly, i fail to see how could i take your arguments seriously if you don't see that.

      you are completely wrong about the chicago school. i'm not subscribing to that ideology.
      • Aug 9 2011: Well said.

        As I said, I think we are losing la punta in the translation. I suspect that our way of expressing our idea are in conflict with the inherent similarity of our ideas, n'est pas?

        We both share ignorance in that we lack knowledge of each other. Perhaps we should remedy that, no?
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          Aug 9 2011: probably not, because you are in for a great shock. when i said i'm not subscribing to the chicago school, i meant i'm much more extreme than that. for i believe in the austrian school of economics. and when i said democracy and freedom are contradictory, i meant to abolish democracy, not freedom.
      • Aug 10 2011: Well... I WAS willing to try if you were, but ... *shrugs*
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    Aug 8 2011: Being a child that loves junk food... I can't really say that the occasional bag of potato chips or carton is ice cream is really as serious as "child abuse." Giving Mickey D's and Wendy's every night to our children is definitely leading them onto obesity or diabetes or heart disease or any host of good ol' American diseases and could perhaps arguably be deemed child abuse...? but I believe that as long as we educate our children properly about the potential harms of junk foods and give them reasonable amounts while still maintaining a healthy diet, it's all right. Education, right? It's what we all need, and I'm sure that I've heard "THE WORLD NEEDS TO BE EDUCATED" screamed numerous times on TED Talks. The world surrounding us is full of temptations to do this and that, but as long as the we are educated well upon the truth of things, that's a good start. I guess that's the reason for the required health classes in school, the nutritional and ingredient lists on all food products, etc...
    • Aug 9 2011: Of course the problem is that the food companies are writing the curriculum of the very education you say these kids need.

      "Milk, it does a body good" is a gross misrepresentation of what study after study says. And yet by insinuating themselves into the regulatory process and the education process, they are able to frame the argument from an early age with good sounding by scientifically absurd nonsense (unless you count the biased studies that they fund and then site - which no rationalist should).

      Just my 2 cents. How old are you?
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        Aug 10 2011: Yeah I realize your point. I mean, despite all the McDonald's commercials screaming healthy yogurt parfaits and whatnot, I'm pretty sure that the svelte people should avoid it...

        Also I realize that you're only using the milk example as just one of many exaggerations, but I thought that milk was actually pretty beneficial? Obviously it's not some miraculous panacea, but I know that its nutritional benefits are pretty decent, and that there are even arguments that humans originally evolved lactose intolerant, but those who were lactose persistent and could consume dairy products (such as milk) had higher life spans than those who were lactose intolerant and thus passed on good persistence genes. I've never done research on this so I don't know if this is fact, but it certainly sounds reasonable. I guess I still need that education I say the world needs ^_^

        Um well, I'm old enough to realize I say too much and know too little, haha? That's entirely why I joined these conversations, of course. So hopefully my age doesn't show too terribly much.
        • Aug 10 2011: The milk industries main claim is that milk, pasteurized and homogenized (a process that benefits transport and storage for the industry), is good for bone maintenance and growth but reputable studies (i.e. the ones NOT paid for by milk lobbying firms) maintain the exact opposite.

          I guess that is what happens when the marketing departments get involved. Did you know that milk farmers only get 2 cents a gallon and that prices have remained fixed for farmers for the past 30 years even as prices for consumers have risen. Who do you think pockets that cash?

          Love your icon BTW - what is it?
    • Aug 10 2011: I would be interested to know which "study after study" you are referring to Jeffrey. i don't know if you can consider such a vague statement a "gross misrepresentation".
      The main part of Ben's thread was about education, but i think an aspect of education is being left out... Education is derived from Latin "to bring up/out" as in potential. This implies not only education in the form of knowledge, but also to apply, evaluate, and compare, that knowledge. Something Ben did a little of, in relation to the role of milk (and very well i must say).
      There is a certain amount of personal responsibility that comes with education, a responsibility to use it... something that is sometimes lacking.
      • Aug 10 2011: See my comment above. If you need clarification I would be happy to try to find the citations.
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          Aug 11 2011: Uh weird, I guess we're not allowed to reply past the third reply? Well okay.

          Anyways so I guess you meant more the milk industries and transportation industries were phony, rather than the actual milk itself. Maybe we should go back to the ol' days of Laura Ingalls Wilder and milk our own cows again, eh? Haha, I'd like to see some of my neighbors own cows... but for the rest of us (again I'm not entirely sure of these facts), I always figured pasteurization was something necessary against spoilage, and if any harm is done from the process, it's just the destruction of certain nutrients. In the end, the pasteurized milk is probably healthier than a Pepsi still. As for homogenization... it's just like breaking down and re-suspending the fat, right? It'd be neat to see the studies that you wrote about, I'll try to find some online too.

          Hah. It's a Pokemon, Psyduck. Lots of mental power underneath, but it doesn't quite know how to use it yet...
  • Aug 7 2011: Hello Audrey,
    The first idea that popped into my head when you mentioned being an educator was the reintroduction of the old Home Economics class. A majority of young adults move out into the world with no more an idea how to make anything to eat of a caliber much higher than a pb&j. Focus on quick easy and healthy meals and snacks. Show them that there are things much better tasting than Doritos that don't take much time. Move the focus from telling kids what they "should do" to "how to do". One of the best ways to compete against marketing is an actual experience that shows something different.

    Maybe call it "Independent Living" or something like that. Wouldn't hurt if it were mandatory and taught a number of basic functions for taking care of yourself properly from food to debt to sewing on a button. We - as a society - really don't prepare our youth for life very well for all the years of schooling that we require.
    • Aug 9 2011: Too true. I don't know how many other people in my age range consider the ability to open a can, bag, or box and microwave the contents as cooking.

      As a former chef (car accident left me partially paralyzed) I can tell you that the state of cooking is deplorable. Having said that, I hold out hope in that there is a growing desire to be able to cook. The slow food movement, for example, is a good sign.

      But yes, I think cooking is a basic skill along with basic repair (mechanics, wood shop, etc) along with athletics, arts and sciences.

      Raise you children right and they will... etc...
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    Aug 6 2011: Junk Food is unhealthy - I guess about 90% of our activities are. So it will not help to make "feeding junk food" a legal crime. This is somehow an ideological way, one will always fight we to draw the legal line. I am afraid that only edcuation will help - giving it done from the parents to the children. This means in the end that we have to wait a generation...
    To speed the process up it is essential to report and to publish about the bad consequences of companies producing junk food. Start a facebook group and brand bad food production. !
  • Aug 5 2011: No educated conversation can occur without a definition of what it is we are conversing about.
    Child Abuse-"Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm"
    Definition of imminent.ready to take place; especially : hanging threateningly over one's head
    So do you think "ready to take place" has to be the next instant or over our short life span?
    Another important question what is junk food?- food that is high in calories but low in nutritional content
    Another important question when do you consider a child able to be abused against, in the womb or after they are born?
    "junk food" is scientifically proven to increase rates of obesity among children. Obesity is proven to increase rates of cancer and heart disease. Cancer is proven to be harmful to humans.
    In the end though people will do what they need to to get by. The next question that some people have been addressing is how to make beneficial foods more available to those who can't afford "healthy food"
    As the obesity epidemic at least in america is more prevalent among those with lower incomes. But people with money also feed their kids "junk food" so in the end let people do what they want you can't control everything and the nanny state will drag us all down to the lowest common denominator.
    So is it child abuse. No. Is sticking your child on your lap within 300 feet of a firework celebration abusive, no it's socially acceptable to blow your childrens ear drums out. Is it smart and should be deemed extremely stupid of you yes. If you take that child their everyday and make him have his ear drums blown out then yes it's abuse. To many things in this world are abusive to make them actual laws if done so the entire population would be under some form of arrest.
  • Aug 4 2011: A healthy diet leads to a healthy mind. so if parents are aware that the food my child is taking is not healthy, and still not advising him/her to stop eating unhealthy food then its defintly a child abuse. It is the duty of parents to provide healthy food, good education and good home envirnment. so that the child grow confident , not a burden on society, nor mently neither physically weak. responsibilty is on parents and they should be aware of their kids diet plan.
  • Aug 4 2011: You guys are asking the wrong question because what the heck, no its not. Thats completely insane, you should be asking is it abuse to make your kids exercise? How about that instead of blaming Junk Food, I grew up on junk food and I'm fat and overweight and very happy in fact I still eat junk food, nothing wrong with me but if you make me exercise than thats abuse.
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      Aug 4 2011: Tyler,
      You make a good point in that you can go through anything in life an still be happy but that doesn't mean that it isn't harmful.
      I drink alcohol in a sociable capacity (and am very sociable) and it makes me happy to do so. Doesd this mean that I should be able to share a bottle of wine with my children (7 and 2) simply because it makes me happy? The answer is obviously no because it is harmful to their healthg.
      Anything that is given to a child that damages them physically or mentally, in my opinion, is abuse.
  • Aug 3 2011: If it is their sole diet, then yes it is abuse.
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    Aug 1 2011: If giving a child no food and starving them is neglect, how is giving them too much food not neglect. The reason that not letting a child have food is neglect is because you aren't looking out for their health. You are hurting the child by giving them no food. SO, the opposite (giving them too much food) is also neglect because you are neglecting their health. Giving them too much food could lead to diabetes or other health problems. You are neglecting their health by feeding them too much. So yes it is neglect in my opinion
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    Aug 1 2011: I believe that the core issue is not junk food by itself. It is our selfish nature that makes us consume things that we actually dont need to survive. Junk food is like a scapegoat while for me vide games and other stuff are not less dangerous to kids. Oh by the way I dont have a kid so dont feel that I am in the position to Judge parents and their behaviors on feeding their children. Still this may turn into smoking phenomenon soon. As the health system suffers from junk food related expenses they will try to reduce junk food consumption faster and more radically than now.
  • Aug 1 2011: Hello Audrey,
    It is awesome that your family is like that. You are definitely in the minority though. The thing with marketing is that it isn't aimed at a person's thinking centers. It is aimed so that if you don't have a specific idea of what you want, you will default to something you have heard or seen in a commercial or ad. And since at the time you thought of it you weren't looking at said ad/commercial you think there is a valid reason why you should get that brand. Someone who controls that input like you do is much less susceptible to its strength.

    I don't mean to make it sound like marketing is the 'villain' of the story. It isn't; it's just a tool. However, at the moment it is a tool that is almost entirely used to promote unhealthy behaviors.

    I agree with you about Tiago's idea.
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    Aug 1 2011: Here's to all the TED conversationsthat, although they don't generate a ton of responses, DO generate a ton of great information and resources.There was a conversation started by Adam Burk a few months ago that did exactly that. Here is the link to the conversation and it's 46 responses:


    I mentioned this conversation briefly a bit earlier in this conversation but wanted to elaborate...... Since that conversation I have become involved in my community garden, trying to connect it to our school system's curricula. It's been great fun and very satisfying to work with families and educators on what is considered an "unorthodox" approach to education (since when did something so basic as learning through doing become "unorthodox"?!?!?)
  • Jul 30 2011: I agree with you up to certain point. I don't think any or most parent will consciously give their children "junk" food. I am a big believer in eating healthy and teaching our kids about valuing their bodies for they only have one, but the true of the matter is that eating healthy this day is expensive. We must look at a number of variables when we make such a statement. I don't think marketing is to blame completely, I think is more of an economical and convenience issue, a parent gets out of work after working 12 hr shift, I don't think this person wants to go home and spend time cooking, a quick stop to any of those fast food restaurant will do it. They can spend that time that they would have taken to cook with the family. Its a trade of, bad food for quality time, that is in some cases of course. By no means i'm excusing this behavior, but that is a reality in many households. Also it is cheaper than going to any of the organic fresh food markets or restaurants.
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    Jul 30 2011: Interesting question and the issue would turn on What is Junk Food? In court that would be the parents first defense. There then would have to be appeals at multiple levels and maybe the Supreme Court here would use the same rational as it did in the historic porno case " I know it when I see it" So maybe junk food could be "I know it when I eat it????" LOL
    Actually kids are fat due to high fat food in the US. Burgers, fries, are cooked in fat and lots of processed foods have fats in them. Though many restaurants are starting to turn away from the more dangerous fats. Maybe the answer is more parents taking time to take the kids on a walk, or a run, or working in a home garden, or going to an exercise class or a martial arts class as a family. Then kids would be healthier and have healthier life styles as they grow older. What do you think? Can government legislate good parenting? I think not or in my opinion should it even try.
    I teach middle school and most of my students are thin but some of them are fat to obese and when I see them eating things like dried noodles I cringe. The government food programs here are worse with high carb bread and cereal every morning, pizza, hamburgers etc for lunch and high carb snacks like pretzels that are also high in salt. YUCK government has no clue what is good food. How many officials are in shape and look good. Most are fat to obese and out of shape.
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    Jul 30 2011: Over 45% of Americans are using some form of prescription drug.
    The water is tainted,food is nuked,fruits are canned and if you want to eat food how it is intended (organic)you have to pay double or farm yourself.Bottom line it's profitable to keep people sick.
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    Jul 30 2011: I believe this is a very controversial issue. Can you call it abuse when they honestly didn't know anything about it? Honestly, how many 21st century parents know what to do with children and their diet? How many of them actually enforce a certain type of diet for the benefit of the future? Whether you call this ignorance "child abuse" or not, I think we shoudl focus on how we can enforce healthy diet for children and educate the parents about the seriousness of junk food-related harms..
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    Jul 29 2011: To a certain extend: YES! Because, kids don't know any better till a certain age. So it up to us, to teach them the proper way, by showing them great example, great habit etc.

    If you love someone or something, you want their best at all cost !

    Peace !
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      Jul 30 2011: Mireille,
      I cannot agree with you more! As a parent I hold the responsibility for taking control over what my family eats. My husband and I are setting an example each and every day in how we approach food.

      I do feel, however, that there are many people who may be uneducated about proper healthy eating...
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        Jul 30 2011: True enough Audrey, it is about education.

        I do not have children, yet, but when I will be, I know is my duty to see to their best interest. I'm sure you're doing your best Audrey, and probably more you can imagine.

        Just by setting great example for your children, in your home, at school, their friends will learn, even if their own parent don't set a great example....

        All that to say, you are probably educate other kids, through the example you are setting at home, so keep on the good work , it goes beyond your home!!

        Chlidren are beautiful little monkeys, they will emitate their friends ! Cheers to you and your husband !

        Peace !
  • Jul 28 2011: Of course it isn't child abuse, the parents are eating the same food. It isn't as though they are sitting down to a healthy meal while feeding the kids junk.

    The true problem lies in marketing. McDonald's alone spends more on marketing than all healthy eating marketing budgets combined I'm sure. When was the last time you saw a commercial advertising a video game where the kids playing were eating fruit and drinking juice or water instead of redbull and doritos. When was the last time you watched a movie where the kids grabbed an apple for a snack rather than chips unless of course it was a scene where the kid grabbed chips and mom MADE them grab fruit.

    If you want to change things start an organization that advocates using healthy foods in commercials or even movies. Raise money to do high quality commercials (that don't preach) about eating healthy. New video games are coming out that the players actually move around to control game activities, try and influence that company to have healthy snacks in their commercials.

    Start or become involved in an organization that brings fresh foods to urban markets where it is currently difficult to get. 100s of thousands of people in urban settings don't have easy access to fresh food even as a choice. Here is a link about a guy who started doing this on his own. http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/healthscience/2010/August/Going-Local-Mobile-Farm-Driven-to-Food-Deserts/

    Change should be about helping people to make better choices not penalizing people who don't. That way leads to repression not change. In repression, the people who have the fewest choices are the ones who get hurt.
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      Jul 28 2011: Hello, James. As I see it, you nailed this conversation's question in the first sentence. I'm just not sure I agree with you on making advertisement the greatest "villain" of this issue. It surely has an important role, but I just don't see it being the biggest.

      I think the major problem here is the combination of two situations: first, the contemporary lifestyle, with the immediateness that characterizes basically every action of our lives. I think it's accurate to say that most junk food is, to some extent, fast food, no?

      Second, I don't think people are really aware of how unhealthy these foods really are. If they were, people would probably pay more attention to what they eat.

      Finally, regarding the (re)introduction of fresh foods in people's diets, I've recently stumbled upon a research conducted here in Brazil, in which it was shown that kids are more prone to trying vegetables they planted. Maybe that's something that could be promoted in some urban settings...
      • Jul 28 2011: Hi, Tiago. I'm going to debate you a bit on your definitions.

        For one thing marketing is in effect education. It comes in a smaller sound bite and is generally presented prettier but it is the same thing. We generally think of education = good but really it is the information presented to us whether good or bad. Marketing budgets for unhealthy eating habits out mass hands down education budgets for healthy habits.

        The term 'junk food' tends to make us see too small as does the term 'fast food'. Does it really make it healthier if I grow my own vegies buy a pound of hamburger that is 22% fat and a package of white buns and make my burger at home?

        What drives most people's diets is easy/affordable availability. A fast food stop that includes a low fat turkey burger with fresh vegies and whole wheat bun is better than me making that greasy burger at home.

        So the question becomes 'How do we change the availability of healthy foods so that people can make a healthy choice more easily?' The hands down most effective way to change availability is to change the demand. It's very difficult to make businesses make things available where there is no demand.

        In order to change demand you need education(marketing) that can actually compete with the unhealthy education. You have to sell it not preach it.

        In an urban setting availablity is a huge problem. I live in Los Angeles and if I go to the lower income urban areas what I would consider a market isn't even available within several miles. A store might have a few apples and bananas in a basket and maybe a head of lettuce or two.

        In middle income urban areas there is definitely more availability but cost becomes an issue. Eating healthy can easily double your grocery cost. How do you lower cost? Increased demand.

        I think most people know they aren't eating healthy. No one thinks that being 50+ lbs overweight is good. They won't change until eating healthy is as easy as driving through McD's...
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          Jul 30 2011: James,
          I understand what you are saying about marketing, however, as a parent, I am still setting an example for my children as to the choices we make for our meals. I do not buy into marketing, I read labels and I'm not taking my kids to fast food joints because it's easier. My husband and I decide what our children eat...we are not ruled by marketing, we simply choose to ignore it and make our own informed decisions. We also set an example by not sitting in front of the TV breathing in laziness and marketing schemes via commercials and other visual/audio influences.

          I really like what you're saying about making healthy eating as easy as driving through McD's. That would be awesome. I think a lot of what your saying about availability and pricing is right on the money as well. It is not easy or affordable to eat healthy...and not everyone has the space to grow their own vegetables, although Tiago's idea about that could be an excellent idea for families who do have a spot for a garden.
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          Aug 7 2011: Hi again James
          As an educator, I'm wondering what schools can do to create the change as you so adeptly put it "In order to change demand you need education(marketing) that can actually compete with the unhealthy education. You have to sell it not preach it." How much more could students learn if they could create and implement ideas for sustainable living and healthy eating?
          I struggle every day to try to feed my children healthy foods when all they really want to eat is mainly carbs...I'd love to see my children coming home from school learning how to grow locally and eat fresh. And to you point that marketing is education, I'm understanding you more with some reflection on the importance of media in our society. My children are very young and we try to infuse tv wathcing with learning languages, so we rely on dvd's...however, there is no escaping the commercials and messages that my children will process in their lifetime. I see how marketing is a large influence on our children's education on food, however, I still would have to say I feel that the two main reasons for obesity in the US are: education of parents and the example they set at meals; the socio-economic status of the family.
    • Aug 9 2011: In the USA I always mention this website to find fresh, healthy, local food. www.localharvest.org ..

      I am a member of a CSA and I spend about $30 a week on enough fresh certified organic veggies to feed a family of 4 (if one adds grains and proteins as needed. It doesn't have to be expensive.

      But I agree that it is difficult.
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    Jul 25 2011: I think that a great way to reduce the amount of junk food that people eat would be to place a 'charity tax' on it. This would mean that every time you purchased a grease ridden burger a small amount was added to the price which would be used to send food to some of the less well off countries of the world!
    Let's see how charitable people are when it comes to their takeaways!!
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      Jul 25 2011: chicken breast is junk food? probably not. potato is junk food? probably not. so what about eating chicken breast with potato every day?

      hamburger is junk? how about a whole-grain bread roll, chicken or fish, and a lot of fresh vegetables?

      i recommend to set up a daily reporting system. every citizen would report the daily consumption in detail, the computer would compute the "healthiness index", and citizens would have to pay accordingly. an even more advanced method could be a government planned diet. everyone would receive a monthly diet plan, and would have to follow that. it also solves the volatility problem of the food market.

      please check your email. your food plan for august has been sent to you. please note that disobeying the food plan can result in penalty up to GBP1000, or up to 90 days of jail time. thank you for your cooperation.
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        Jul 27 2011: What about a healthy eating rebate? This would be based on your idea of reporting what you purchase/consume and you would recieve an annual financial incentive for reaching a required health standard?
        Motivate instead of punish?
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    Jul 25 2011: I think we should be talking about 'why' this is happening and what can be done about it. Part of the role of a parent is to provide a healthy upbringing for their children, where has this been lost on some people?
  • Jul 23 2011: Junk Food may be a modern day form of entertainment. Yes it can be destructive, as was riding motorcycles in my youth. It can also be incredibly appealing to the pleasure centers of the brain, thanks to flavor enhancers. My childhood entertainment left me with a few scars. These seem insignificant compared to the obesity and negative health effects of this generation's entertainment. I'm afraid that junk food, as bad as it is, may not be the worst entertainment kids are taking part of. I do find it interesting how eager parents are to participate. I'm not sure it is abuse, but it is allowing the children to participate in behavior that will lessen their effectiveness in life.
  • Jul 23 2011: Depends on the "true" intent...
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    Jul 23 2011: Before we consider it child abuse and hold parents responsible we need to consider how we have enabled and profitted by this abuse as a society. Allowing companies to market junkfood to kids is a black mark on us as human societies. Proper nutrition should be a right.
  • A J

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    Jul 23 2011: Well Im not a nutritional expert so thats why I used the word seldom.. because thats what nutritional experts always say...fine in moderation. My reference to 1 soda a week is just an example of limiting consumption of something that has high calories and no nutritional value. Obviously, the more soda you drink/ week will contribute more unecessary calories to accumulate or potentially cause health problems due to the weight gain alone. Im sure you could google the impact of junk food consumption per unit on annual weight gain.. if you want to be scientific.
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    Jul 23 2011: Yes it is if its fed to them as anything more than a seldom treat (ex. one can of soda a week). My mom cooked every single meal for my family growing up, and it paid off. Our adult eating habits are a reflection of what we ate as children and impact our health sometimes worse than second hand smoke, and there is much evidence of that.
    • Jul 23 2011: How is one can of soda a week not a completely arbitrary number with no scientific reasoning to back it up? I am not saying that Soda is something that should not be taken in moderation, I am only questioning your method of determining what proper moderation is. Your approach seems to have no basis in actual nutritional values.
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    Jul 22 2011: How many parents or even adult people are aware of risk of junk food? The power of advertisement rather gives people a other message bypassing the irsk. So an unaware act can't be considered as abuse.
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      Jul 22 2011: the fact that it is commonly refered to as "junk" food should be a indication that it shouldnt be fed to children often. theres an awareness there im sure.
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        Jul 23 2011: Hi Tim , I agree if someone calls it JUNK food they are definitely aware as the work JUNK ifself has got a negative conotation. But what % of eaters consider it as JUNK ? Unfortunately I don't have any statistics about it. From my observation in the places I lived I saw these food are considered as either Tasty or Convenience or even a symbol Image, which actually the result of promotional campaign of those food giants.

        I didn't want to say the awareness is ZERO, what I wanted say is awareness is low or very low. My other point is if someone unaware offering that to their kids can't be considered as Child Abuser. Other point is that the promotion program of those Food Giants are also targeted to Kids and kids has got high power pushing buying decision of their parents !!! You will find lot of products' advertisements are targeted to KIDs because of that though those products have nothing to do with kids , as for example "Washing Powder".
  • Jul 22 2011: You're driving and another car comes to a stop right beside you. In that car there are two little kids sitting in the back seat, windows rolled up and parents are both smoking cigarettes. What would you do? Certainly, most of us would be enraged at the obvious abuse of those kids. Now, a second car pulls up beside you and the parents are sharing with their kids a large bag of potato chips and a big bottle of Cola. What do you do? We don't feel quite as enraged as in the previous scenario, but nevertheless we're upset.
    A well respected health educator (professor) was heard to say that the second scenario is actually more of a health threat to those kids in the long run. He is quite certain that heart disease and diabetes, related to eating junk food regularly would cause more harm than the smoke. Causing harm, whether intentionally or unintentionally is abuse. Health education is so important in raising healthy humans especially if we believe "Your health is your wealth"
  • Jul 22 2011: Moderation is the key to many things.

    Forcing a child to take piano lessons is most likely to be seen as a good thing. Forcing a child to practice for 16 hours a day is probably going to be seen as abuse.

    What is "Junk Food"? Anything that is not naturally grown? Anything that is not Vegan? Anything with more potentially harmful ingredients than nutritionally healthy ingredients? Is it simply about sugar content?

    A balanced and nutritional diet is essential for a healthy life. The further one gets from a healthy diet, the more abuse his/her body is subjected to. My opinion is that by intentionally feeding kids a diet which will make them unhealthy (whether this is done on purpose or not), one is practicing a form of abuse on that child.

    Is a candy bar abuse?--probably not. Is one dinner of nothing but candy bars abuse?--probably not. Is a 6000 calorie/day diet of mostly empty calories, man made ingredients, and not enough real nutritional value to develop properly considered abuse?--I would say yes.
  • Jul 22 2011: Asking whether or not giving children junk food is child abuse begs the question of whether raising a child in a culture with junk food is child abuse. Asking this question takes the role of junk food out of its context, and abstracts it. The definition of "Junk food" is also an abstract term that is constantly being refined. So, a pragmatic way to ask this question would consist of "Is giving food that, I know has lower nutritional value and higher fat content, (given that I have access to highly nutritious, lower fat filled foods) preferable to giving children higher quality foods?" But even this question still abstracts the situation away from the reality of it. As others have said, occasional "junk foods" are definitely not going to have a big enough effect to constitute "child abuse". As far as forming long standing patterns, it may not be preferable to feed your children a low nutrition diet, but perhaps it is part of the "trial and error" that makes up natural selection. (Try this http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_harford.html ) But, if you believe that this could be part of this process, wouldn't you want your children to be as far from the "error" category as possible?
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    Jul 21 2011: I must say yes, in a way it is because it's not nourishment, it's not ritual like eating with the family, it's expensive so leads to budget cuts on other things like the dentist or doctor or whatever. It's a quick fix / timesaver for whoever provides it to the child. What we eat in the first 3 years of our lives influences our health, growth and intelligence for the rest of our lives. So it's abusive in every respect and you know what the old adage says; You are what you eat!
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      Jul 21 2011: it would be advisable to use the words in their original meaning. abuse must be intentional. unless parents intentionally want to damage their children's health, it is neglect at worst. but even neglect is hard to prove if the action is widely accepted and exercised.
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        Jul 22 2011: You are correct from a legal standpoint. What you say holds true in a court of law but on an everyday basis people know that they are trying to save time and looking for the easy way out. Information is readily available and debate is prolific around the subject. Unhealthy nutrition has no excuse nowadays like you can't say any more that you didn't know that smoking kills!
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          Jul 23 2011: i did my homework, i found that indeed, child abuse includes neglect too.

          however, i still hold to my second point, if a behavior is widespread, it is rather hard for many people to divert themselves from that group behavior. i'm not saying it is okay. i'm not saying it is not their personal responsibility, and they are failing at it. i'm saying that it is not a requirement to be smarter, better than the average. i mean, how could that be?

          so my proposal is not to express hatred to the many people who fails to fix their diet. instead, try to push the topic, and teach and convince people to wise up!
    • Jul 22 2011: I agree with Krisztian. Abuse does make it sound like the parent is force-feeding the child junk-food so as to intentionally harm them.

      Besides, if we call this abuse, what's next? Telling your child "no", in fear that it would create some sort of inferiority complex?

      Edit: "Telling your child 'no' BECOMES ABUSE, in fear that it would . . ."
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        Jul 23 2011: Yes Benjamim, the question do seem contradictory.
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    Jul 21 2011: As parents, my husband and I try to set a healthy example for our children by eating healthy together as a family. We both agree that parents must provide this example and are solely responsible for raising their children in a healthy fashion. We can go on pointing fingers at commercials and other extra extraneous influences, but the truth of the matter is that parents are the key to causing and repairing this issue. How? Well, I don't know, but I'd be super curious to see what sort of ideas would be created if Jane McGonigal's team created a game for this issue!

    This question makes me want to ask more questions: Who's responsible for feeding children? Well, as a parent myself, the main people responsible for providing meals for my two children are my husband and myself. Once they start school, we could choose to buy lunch at the cafeteria or brown bag it. In many families, perhaps buying is more convenient, so then the responsibility is on the school for one or two meals (many american schools provide breakfast and lunch). So then how nutritional are school lunches? How many soda machines and junk food options are schools providing?

    I still feel that as a parent, it is my duty to look into nutritional values at my school and provide healthy options for my children if my school cannot. I am fortunate enough to be able to afford options...not all families are as fortunate...many families where I used to work in Syracuse received free or reduced cost meals.
  • Jul 21 2011: Well what do you define abuse? I see abuse as misuse. In that case, junk food is not horrible as long as one has control of a healthy balanced diet. Certainly other products like wine or OTC drugs can have great benefits when used properly. But when someone has no self control to set a limit of how much product they ingest, that certainly is a problem.

    Personally I feel like our country doesn't have a junk food issue, but rather a consumption issue. Our food culture is definitely unique to most countries. We have a plethora of fast food chains, in which the nature of these chains is to get you food fast so you can eat even faster. Another contributing factor, even more important in my opinion, is the massive supermarkets of Walmart and Jewel Osco and Meijer which influenced Americans to buy groceries in bulk to save money. This has caused us to buy an excess amount of food we do not need in our diet, which arguably most of these products (especially for kids) are eaten as an impulse snack at home. When I was young I found it crazy how some of my friends had giant two door pantries full of chips, snacks, canned food, cookies. It was like a mini candy shop in a kitchen. When growing up, it was a common for my friends and I to come home from school and raid each others kitchens for the good tasting junk food. It was definitely an impulse decision, and it was just something to do at the time.

    So back to your question. I say no, because I see the issue of eating junk food is more of a cultural problem than an individual parenting problem.
  • Jul 21 2011: I would definitely say not... It's bad, for sure. But I think calling it abuse would only further our tendancies to protect our children... Children need to make mistakes, or they can't learn. Let them have junk food! Let them run with scissors! Otherwise, all they'll know is what their mommy and daddy told them.
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    Jul 20 2011: Its a fine line. If the parents want they're kid so have some sweets let them but I think its the over doing of it that might be considered abuse. I once was chatting with some friends at this girls house, her 2 year old son can up holding his sippy cup so she popped the lid off, went to the fridge, opened a mountain dew and filled it up. I think that was terrible to do, whats wrong with water? its more of a question saying " When is to much junk food child abuse?"
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    Jul 20 2011: i think, in a way, yes it is.
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    Jul 20 2011: This is a very interesting question. I think that there are several reasons for the "overweight epidemic", and the biggest of them is probably availability. People have junk food at their fingertips, and it is very easy and convenient to make it a large portion of your diet.
    So when people acquire these habits, they will most likely transfer them on to their children, even though they probably know deep down that it is not good for them. So, in this sense, this would be definitely considered child abuse, or rather neglect, as Ms. Subhashree said.
    However, I don't think that it is all that bad to give a child some candy or a hamburger every now and then, as long as it doesn't become a habit and as long as healthy food, such as fruit and vegetables, still makes for the larger part of the diet. I would say that the key here is moderation and awareness of the possible consequences to the child's health.
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    Jul 20 2011: I definitely believe it warrants for some sort of an abuse. I have seen children being fed junk food and candies as regular meals! The child has no perception of what is healthy and what causes harm to the body, it is the duty and the responsibility of the parents to inculcate healthy diet and lifestyle in their children's lives. I have come across somebody who is lazy to cook and has her children eat out every meal, every day. My heart goes out to those young kids who probably think Mac and cheese and fried nuggets constitute for a normal meal.
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      Jul 20 2011: right? I have seen parents just hand cheetos and stuff to kids as a lunch.
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    Jul 20 2011: It is foolhardy, but it is not abuse.

    It may be the only economically viable option.

    They only way to avoid it is to grow your own victory garden and raise/hunt your own meat. You can't buy anything in box or package and feed to your children without polluting them in some way shape of form.