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J Law Med Ethics. 2007 Spring;35(1):10-21.

From tastes great to cool: children's food marketing and the rise of the symbolic.

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  • 1Department of Sociology, Boston College, Boston, MA, USA.


Children's exposure to food marketing has exploded in recent years, along with rates of obesity and overweight. Children of color and low-income children are disproportionately at risk for both marketing exposure and becoming overweight. Comprehensive reviews of the literature show that advertising is effective in changing children's food preferences and diets. This paper surveys the scope and scale of current marketing practices, and focuses on the growing use of symbolic appeals that are central in food brands to themes such as finding an identity and feeling powerful and in control. These themes are so potent because they are central to children in their development and constitution of self. The paper concludes that reduction of exposure to marketing will be a central part of any successful anti-obesity strategy.

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