Wash. Post on Obese Children: 'Parent' Never Mentioned

     When it’s time to blame someone for “the super-sizing of American children,” The Washington Post looks to companies that market “temptations of young consumers.” Never mind how those “temptations” make it from the TV screen into the little tykes’ mouths.

     In a 1,238-word article all about the eating habits of children under the age of 12, the word “parent” was never mentioned.

     The May 22 Post, in an installment of its series “Our Overweight Children,” celebrated food companies’ “sweet surrender” to pressure from advocacy groups, which included threats of lawsuits. It lauded McDonald’s for offering milk and vegetables and Kellogg for reducing its kid-targeting advertising.

     The article included the usual suspects, including the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, but the anti-calorie advocates didn’t make their case alone.

     The Post’s Susan Levine and Lori Aratani helped by making statements like: “Critics say the industry can do much more. Plenty remains unhealthy in the food universe; improvements might make an item less egregious, but that doesn’t mean it’s suddenly nutritious.”

     And after a passing mention of “personal responsibility,” the writers quickly added: “Yet the dramatic transformation of Americans’ ‘food environment’ is beyond dispute.”

     “Choices are denser in calories, restaurant servings are larger, and items once thought of as indulgences have become commonplace for all ages,” they wrote.

     The article repeatedly referred to the under-12 demographic, yet made no reference to the people making those “choices” that are supposedly “denser in calories.” Since 12-year-olds and their younger siblings can’t drive themselves to grocery stores and restaurants, parental supervision is a key factor glaringly absent from the Post’s article.

     Instead, the Post recounted the advocacy groups’ victories in their fight to control businesses. Near the end of the story, the writers acknowledged briefly that “compliance [with new food-supply agreements] on any front is no easy or inexpensive task. To fulfill the agreement reached with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, the American Beverage Association has had to retrofit containers and vending machines because 20-ounce drinks no longer will be allowed in schools.”

     That was the only mention of the cost to businesses, and it didn’t include the price tag of changing products and marketing in surrender to threats of lawsuits or heavier regulation.