Democrats call on Nickelodeon to stop airing junk food ads

Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) sent a letter Monday to Nickelodeon President Cyma Zarghami and its parent company, Viacom Inc.

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“As a leading multi-media entertainment destination for children and adolescents, Nickelodeon has a special opportunity — and responsibility — to help address our nation’s childhood obesity epidemic,” the senators wrote. “We ask that you implement a clear policy to guide the marketing of food to children on Nickelodeon’s various media platforms.” 

The senators cited a Center for Disease Control and Prevention report that said childhood obesity has doubled among children and tripled among adolescents in the last 30 years. They said Nickelodeon could help the federal government save more than $140 billion in healthcare spending related to childhood obesity by taking similar action that the Walt Disney Corp. did last year.

“While there are many factors that contribute to childhood obesity, food marketing plays an important role,” the letter stated. “Nickelodeon is in a key position to help safeguard the health and well-being of our kids, and your decisions on what products are permitted to be advertised through your network have an impact on our children’s diets and long-term health prospects.”

In the letter, the senators praised the Disney Corp. for no longer accepting advertisements on television, radio and websites directed at children for foods that didn’t meet the company’s nutritional standards.