Food marketing and the regulation of children’s taste:
On packaged foods, paratexts, and prohibitions
Keywords:food marketing, taste, child, packaging, regulation, food
Playing with food has long been understood as a part of childhood, with adults placing rules around children’s eating. Over the past few decades, children’s imaginative food play has been commodified by the food industry—the play has been packaged and sold back to children, with fun appeals, cartoon characters, and bright packaging used to identify packaged foods as “for kids”. Yet with increasing rates of childhood obesity, the very foods designed to appeal to children are now subject to new forms of regulation (at the macro level via marketing to kids restrictions). This Perspective explores how play and food is expressed and controlled in the world of children’s packaged foods. In the final section, we take up how play and food are being promoted to children by the use of licensed characters from children’s media culture. Specifically, we argue that there is particular purchase in recognizing these licensed characters as paratexts (rather than simply cartoon appeals). Doing so reconfigures the conversations about child-targeted promotional appeals in new and significant ways, shifting the conversation from issues of obesity and regulation to those of media culture and commercialization.
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Copyright (c) 2021 Charlene Elliott
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