Is the Food Industry Playing Games With Our Children?

obese childrenIs the food industry playing games with our children? You bet it is. A recent report from the Kaiser Family Foundation, "It's Child's Play: Advergaming and the Online Marketing of Food to Children,[1]" provides a comprehensive look at this increasingly popular type of advertising.

Advergaming is the use of online video games with embedded brand messages to engage a target audience. It is specifically designed to blur the boundary between advertising and entertainment.

The food industry uses advergaming that targets children and adolescents as a low-cost supplement to television advertising. Like the higher profile TV ads that have attracted so much attention from critics,[2] the advergaming onslaught is largely aimed at promoting energy-dense foods, such as sweet cereals, candies, and high-calorie snacks. These foods are the raw fuel for childhood obesity.

Although parents are typically the ones to actually purchase these foods, we all know how powerful the pressure can be when our kids request certain products. Let's face it: Even the most determined amongst us will eventually give in when the child is persistent enough. In fact, one advergaming site even prompts children to fill out a grocery list, prepopulated with the company's products, to give to mom and dad.[3]

The food industry is spending millions of dollars on this new form of advertising because, quite simply, it works. There were an astounding 12.2 million visits in just 3 months by children ages 2-11 to the advergaming Web sites in the Kaiser Family Foundation study.

If health professionals are to have a fighting chance in the war against childhood obesity, we must be aware of industry efforts, like advergaming, so that we can neutralize them. We also need to employ equally clever tools to present our side of the story that healthy eating is the key to maintaining a healthy weight for life.

It is time to take the gloves off and become active participants in upcoming food fights. The forces working to undermine healthy eating are formidable.[4] It is time we exercise our responsibility and fight these pernicious attacks on our children's health.

That's my opinion. I'm Dr. Patricia Salber, Chief Medical Officer of PEERtrainer, Inc., an online system that supports weight loss and fitness.


  1. Moore ES. It's child's play: advergaming and the online marketing of food to children. A Kaiser Family Foundation Report. Menlo Park, California: Kaiser Family Foundation; July 2006. Available at: Accessed August 23, 2006.
  2. Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Pestering Parents: How Food Companies Market Obesity to Children. Washington, DC: CSPI; 2003. Part I is available at:; part II is available at:; part III is available at: Accessed August 23, 2006.
  3. Salber P. Is the food industry playing games with our children? The doctor weighs in. July 20, 2006. Available at: Accessed August 23, 2006.
  4. Institute of Medicine. Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity? Washington, DC: National Academies Press; December 6, 2005.
source - Medscape

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This page contains a single entry by ID Admin published on November 21, 2006 4:27 PM.

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