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Are fast food chains or parents to blame for childhood obesity?



A new study on childhood obesity has people asking whether to blame the clown and the king — or just mom and dad.

Yale health researchers yesterday released the report on fast food nutrition and advertising, finding that kids see more ads for places such as McDonald’s and Burger King than ever before.

It also found, however, that a whopping 84 percent of parents take their kids to a fast food joint at least once a week.

Marion Nestle, professor of public health at NYU, said parents shouldn’t be demonized.

“It’s brilliant marketing in action, and it’s tough for parents to fight when an entire industry’s purpose is to get their kids to want those food products,” she said.

The study focused on 12 fast food restaurants, including Wendy’s and KFC, in an industry that spent more than $4.2 billion on ads last year.

The study said only 12 of 3,039 possible children’s meals at the chains “met nutrition criteria for preschoolers.”

Of the restaurants amNewYork contacted, McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC said they offer healthy options to customers, and said they’re committed to responsible advertising for children.

Marlene Schwartz, a co-author of the study, said the industry’s definition of healthy meal is “very liberal.”

“I don’t think it helps anybody to market to kids. They don’t understand persuasive intent. Ethically, I think it’s wrong.”

But wrong or not, it’s effective.

“I have a 6-year-old brother — he loves McDonald’s,” said Amanda, a 13-year-old student at MS 260 Clinton School for Writers and Artists.

“It was [our parents’] mistake for feeding him McDonald’s when he was 3.”

John Thomas, 49, of Rockaway and a parent himself, agrees.

“The parents are in control,” he said. “Everyone wants the easy way out, and Burger King is the easy way out.”

(With Heidi Lee)

Yale’s study by the numbers:

— 15: Number of kids’ meals out of 3,039 considered “nutritional” for older children
— 15%: Percentage of pre-schoolers who ask to go to McDonald’s every day
— Black kids and teens saw at least 50 percent more TV ads than their white peers
— 17%: Number of menu itemsthat qualify as healthy choices
— 3: Fast food ads pre-schoolers see per day; teens see five


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