Fast food restaurants target kids

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Fast food restaurants are stepping up efforts to market themselves and unhealthy food products to children and toddlers with television ads, websites and even their own menus.

According to researchers, efforts by the industry to regulate itself have failed and urged government officials at all levels to declare children a protected group and stop marketing efforts that are fuelling child obesity, a serious health problem.

Researchers spent a year studying 12 big fast food chains, analyzed the calories, fat, sugar and sodium in menu items and kids' meal combinations, and studied what children and teens ordered.

The report finds the industry spent more than $4.2 billion in 2009 on marketing and advertising on television, the internet, social media sites and mobile applications.
 
McDonald's Corp (MCD.N) has 13 websites, attracting 365,000 unique child visitors under 12 every month and researchers found that teenagers purchased 800 to 1,100 calories, or half a day's worth, in an average visit.

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama, spearheading an administration initiative on child obesity, has urged food manufacturers to re-package food so that it is healthier for kids.

In 2007, McDonald's and other large U.S. food and drink companies pledged to adopt stricter controls on advertising to children under 12.

McDonald's said it had kept its promises. "We primarily advertise our popular 375 calorie four-piece Chicken McNugget Happy Meal which includes Apple Dippers, low-fat caramel dip, and a jug of 1 percent low-fat milk," spokesman Neil Golden said in a statement.

How often does your child eat junk food?

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