Food Politics

What Constitutes ‘Junk Food,’ Exactly?

Sure, they're made with white flour. So what? So was everything your grandmother ever baked.
Sure, they’re made with white flour. So what? So was everything your grandmother ever baked. Photo: Courtey of Campbell’s Foods

While most of us can agree that Taco Bell Chalupas and most varieties of cheesy poofs qualify as junk food, what about those supermarket items that occupy a gray area, not obviously horrible for you or your children, but not exactly good for you either? Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, and Ritz crackers, for example. The big food manufacturers are latching onto the idea that certain foods are healthful enough to pass muster under new federal guidelines for marketing foods to children that are being proposed by the FTC this week. In our mind, Goldfish are a delicious — and only semi-guilty — treat, especially the Parmesan ones, and how can a baked cracker with a little cheese in it be so terrible? But what about stuff like SpaghettiO’s?

Under existing FTC guidelines, as the Times reports, foods like Kellogg’s Apple Jacks and Chef Boyardee pastas passed muster for being pushed to kids, despite having sodium and sugar contents that most food advocates balk at. The new guidelines would go into effect in 2014, and it’s not yet clear how strict they’ll be, which is why Big Food is out there putting on a good face and taking small steps to curb childhood obesity — such as the initiative announced this week by restaurant chains to market under-600-calorie dishes to kids, something many of them were already doing.

But what say you, dear readers? Do you love and feel compelled to defend Parmesan Goldfish, as we do? Are Ritz crackers too dangerous to market to children? What about the beloved Chicken in a Biskit? Or Baked Lay’s, for God’s sake?

Food Makers Push Back on Ads for Children [NYT]
Earlier: Nineteen Chain Restaurants Pushing Healthier Stuff for Kids
Blame the Media for America’s Little Fatties

What Constitutes ‘Junk Food,’ Exactly?