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This Just In: July 1 - 8 

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Cereal Offenders

Summary: Hold on to your spoons, people -- some experts have discovered that television influences what our children want to eat! Reporter: Dr. Maria Simbra, KDKA Channel 2 Airtime: 2 minutes, 4 seconds on June 23 Highlights: * When Simbra appears, seated in the KDKA studios, and says, "Food and beverage companies spend close to a billion dollars a year on marketing aimed at children. A study in the Journal of Pediatrics says, 'It works.'" * The prerecorded portion of Simbra's dish, which begins with a list of beloved cartoon characters: "Dora, Shrek, SpongeBob -- in addition to being popular cartoon characters, they also work in sales." * When Dr. Goutham Rao of the Children's Hospital Weight Management Center attests, "Some of these cartoon characters are really heroes to young children, like SpongeBob, et cetera. So, it's almost like using a celebrity to endorse a product." * When Simbra reads, "A study funded by a food-policy nonprofit group shows products packaged with these characters taste better to 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds." * When Rao elaborates, "They're very impressionable, especially at that age. We know that television has a huge influence over children." * When Simbra cites details: "Forty children at daycares in Connecticut were given two sets of identical packs of graham crackers, 'gummies' and carrots. The only difference was, on one set, there was a sticker of a cartoon character. The children preferred the graham crackers and gummies with the character. The carrots, too, but not as clear-cut." * When Rao posits, "Growers of fruits and vegetables don't have the sort of advertising budgets that the big food companies have. They can't get SpongeBob on their side." * When Simbra asks, "So would veggies on a SpongeBob dish be a way to entice kids? For parents, it's not that easy." * When a Squirrel Hill mother says (or asks, based on the way her intonation shifts): "They go for string cheese and the fruit and that before they go for the garbage stuff?" * When Simbra ends this drawn-out report: "Rao has partnered with the kids' network 'qubo' to develop their food-advertising policy. Basically, he recommends advertising only healthy foods. Of course, cooperation from the food and beverage industry will be important." What We Learned: We can only pray that someday, SpongeBob will endorse America's spinach-farmers. Unanswered Question: What is a gummy? If you really want to enlighten us, explain that ball of wax. News Value: 0. But it certainly earns a 10 in the "duh" department. Every parent, uncle, babysitter, grandmother, etc. already knows this, and I'm not sure why KDKA needs a doctor to report it. Well, until Simbra makes her last statement, noting Rao's partnership with a kids' TV network. Who's zoomin' who here?

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