The greatest show on earth is about to roll into town. We have been preparing for this event, whether we wanted to or not, since the day it was announced London would be hosting the Olympics. This has culminated in an increased focus on exercise, sports and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. However, the biggest irony of all is that a handful of the Olympics 2012 biggest sponsors are in fact junk food companies.
Whilst the government and health professionals are struggling to encourage the food industry to reduce calories and parents to educate their children on better eating, the Olympics may be sending out an opposing message. Organisations representing nearly every doctor in the UK have united in a single campaign to combat rising obesity levels. A spokesman for the campaign, Professor Terence Stephenson, explains that ‘millions of people are going to see an association between these brands and highly successful athletes. Companies wouldn’t spend all this money on adverts if they didn’t think it would increase their sales.’
McDonalds, Coca-Cola and Cadbury’s are all sponsors of the London games so expect to see them splashed behind the most elite athletes in the world. Researchers have claimed that this may lead children to believe these brands are actually healthier than they really are, which is a fairly logical conclusion to come to. The brands in question have countered criticism by promising to promote lower calorie and lower sugar products as well as focus on ‘activity toys’ and vouchers for sport sessions.
But will this make any difference? Almost a quarter of adults in the UK are overweight and some reports suggest that by 2020 half of children will be obese. Should the same approach to tackling smoking be taken to combatting obesity? This would mean restricting advertising of fatty and calorie laden junk food, plastering warnings on packaging and introducing a tax to discourage people to buy it.
Of course exercise and keeping children active will make a significant difference. Wooden swing sets and climbing frames in your own back garden are great at encouraging little ones to keep moving but this may not be enough. The focus must also be on eating well and avoiding foods high in sugar and high in fat.
What are your thoughts on the Olympic sponsors? Do you think it will encourage children and even adults to eat junk food? Whose responsibility is it to make sure children eat healthily? What do you think of a junk food tax?