SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora the Explorer are shills for the junk-food industry and part of America's child obesity problem, according to one of the nation's leading nonprofit health advocacy groups.
In a new ad campaign targeting Nickeloden for "impersonating a responsible media company," the Center for Science in the Public Interest takes aim at the cable powerhouse for failing to implement nutrition standards for food advertisers on the channel.
"Nickelodeon prides itself on responsible programming for children, but what about its advertising?" said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan in a statement. "Nickelodeon is lagging behind companies like Disney when it comes to supporting parents and protecting kids from junk-food marketing."
RELATED: Disney Says ‘No’ to Junk Food
Disney and Qubo, two competing cable channels aimed at kids, both restrict the kinds of food advertising they'll accept based on nutritional content.
According to CSPI, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., and Nick Toons viewers recently saw ads for products such as Cocoa Puffs, Air Heads, Fruit Roll-Ups and Chuck E. Cheese restaurants. Nick also came under fire for letting its characters appear on junk food like popsicles and fruit snacks.
Disney was singled out for praise for tightening its nutritional standards and putting its characters on healthier products, like cherry tomato, carrot and celery snack packs.
Parents are being urged to contact Nickelodeon's parent company, Viacom, as well as channel president Cyma Zarghami ahead of Viacom's annual shareholders meeting in Hollywood on March 21.
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Max Follmer is the Executive Producer of Series and Franchises at TakePart.com. He has previously covered elections and politics for the Biloxi Sun-Herald, The Huffington Post, and the Los Angeles Daily Journal. Follow him on Twitter @MaxTakePart