Nanny State

The Twix Fix


Masterfoods promises to stop marketing its candy, which includes Snickers, Mars bars, Twix, M&Ms, and Starburst, to kids under the age of 12. It's not clear what this will mean in practice, since it's hard to imagine an ad that appeals to 12-year-olds but not 11-year-olds, and grocery stores presumably will not be establishing age restrictions for the aisles and checkout lanes where Masterfoods' products are on display. The company may be hoping to forestall regulatory action (threatened in the U.K., among other places), but it will probably only encourage its critics by accepting their premise that children should be shielded from candy promotion while failing to deliver an effective shield.

According to the Financial Times story (available online only to subscribers), "The measure reflects mounting concerns about the links between advertising and childhood obesity." It's amazing how easily these "links" are taken for granted, given how little evidence there is that kids see more ads for junk food nowadays than they did when they were thinner, or that they like such food because of the ads, or that they are overweight because they eat such food. I can still recite from memory the jingles and slogans for candy, sugary cereal, snack cakes, and ice cream I saw when I was a kid, but they don't necessarily correspond to the brands I actually ate. And while I did consume a tremendous amount of crap as a kid, I was never fat, and neither were most of my friends, who ate diets equally heavy in foods of questionable nutritional value. Presumably that was because we burned off all those empty calories riding our bikes, playing tag, and climbing trees. Judging from my daughters, both of whom like candy even if they haven't seen it on TV, it is still possible to consume these products without getting fat. So I don't see how candy bars, let alone candy bar ads, can explain weight trends in children during the last couple of decades.