Fast Food And Child Abuse Essay Sample
Childhood obesity and diabetes are global public health problems that threaten the global economy and futures of individual countries, especially developing nations. In the United States alone, childhood obesity has more than doubled over the past three decades, with 18% and 21% of children aged between 6 -11 and teens being obese by the close of the year 2012. Fuelled by the increasing sedentary lifestyles, nutritional transition and rapid urbanization, the sheer prevalence rates and the unceasing pressure on the health care systems makes the twin crises both expensive to manage and hurtful to the ability of the system to handle other health problems. These problems do, however, pale in significance when compared to the physical and psychological effects of the diseases on children, both in the short-term and in throughout their lives. Conclusive scientific evidence has proven that excessive caloric intake (associated with fast foods) is a critical driving force behind the intensifying crisis. In the light of this evidence, this paper asserts that encouraging the intake of, or providing children with fast foods amounts to an infliction of cruelty on them, and thus should be considered as child abuse.
Child abuse is defined by the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (42 U.S.C.A. § 5106g) as any actions or omissions on the part of the caretaker or parent, which places the child in imminent risk or grave harm, physical or sexual abuse and/or exploitation. Physical injury is defined as any nonaccidental physical harm inflicted on the child, which may include kicking, striking, biting, burning and perhaps most importantly, any other actions/omissions that may cause the child’s physical impairment. Upwards of 38 states and Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the Virgin and the Northern Mariana Islands, define physical abuse as including circumstances or acts that threaten the child’s welfare or health.
Neglect and abandonment of children also amount to child abuse. It is defined as the failure of a caretaker or parent having responsibility for a child to avail necessary clothing, food, shelter, medical attention, or direction to the extent that the safety, health and wellbeing of the child is threatened. As many as 25 states and five US territories consider withholding or failing to provide nutrition, education, special medical or mental health treatment to the child as neglect. Effectively, withholding or failing to provide with not just food, but proper or necessary nutrition amounts to abuse. For instance, in the states of Arizona, Arkansas and California, any person with custody of a minor, who knowingly causes or fails to furnish a child with necessary food, shelter, clothing and medical help is guilty of a felony. Permitting or causing the injury to the child’s welfare, including placing a child in circumstances where their health or person may be injured is also a crime. Other states define neglect to include criminal negligence, failure/omission to offer supervision, care and other services required to maintain the child’s mental and physical health.
The third and equally important aspect of child abuse is emotional maltreatment/abuse or mental injury. This is included in the definition of child abuse by at least 33 states and 5 US territories. The specific definitions include injury to the emotional stability and/or psychological capacity of children, as evidenced by visible or significant changes in behaviour, cognition, and emotional response. Such injury may also manifest as depression, anxiety, aggression and withdrawn. Emotional abuse include the persistent psychological maltreatment, making the child lose their self-worth, imposing developmentally inappropriate expectation on the child, intimidation, scapegoating, humiliation, and suppression of social development.
Application to Fast Foods
According to Levine (2011) heavy consumption of fast foods, which are high in fats and energy by children and youths is associated with a heightened risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Other providing children disproportionately high-calorie intakes, fast foods also have poor quality carbohydrates and fats that contribute to the development of diabetes, independent of other risk factors. A meta-analytical study established that increasing the intake of whole grains by two servings a day lowered the risk of developing obesity and diabetes by 21%. Further, the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages (including soda) increased the likelihood of developing type II diabetes as well as weight gain. On the other hand, excessive weight gain, obesity and diabetes predispose children to a heightened risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and kidney diseases among others, due to dyslipidaemia, chronic inflammation and increased insulin demand. Excessive weight gain, diabetes, obesity and other possible diseases result in the children’s physical impairment. For instance, diabetic children will need frequent insulin treatment and frequent hospitalization, besides, not being able to participate in ordinary physical activities. Since these diseases develop as a result of the exposure to fast foods, then the resultant physical suffering and impairment can be traced back to fast foods.
With regard to neglect and abandonment, it is scientific evidence shows that fast foods are nutritionally very poor. They have large concentrations of energy and extremely low concentrations of other important nutrients such as vitamins and healthy proteins. Effectively, allowing children to eat fast foods amounts to a failure to provide proper or necessary nutrition to ensure healthy physical and mental health. Parents and caregivers have the responsibility to ensure that children not only have a healthy diet (ad against fast foods), besides ensuring that minors are not exposed to circumstances in which they will consume fast foods since such foods are injurious to their health. Injurious circumstances include fast foods advertising, selling or offering or causing minors to consumer the same. To the extent that fast foods are nutritionally deficient, and further that heavy intake of such foods is injurious to the child’s health, they offering them to minors or failing to prevent minors from consuming them amounts to culpable negligence. By this criterion, therefore, fast foods amount to child abuse, and should be categorized as such.
The legal definition of child abuse lays emphasis on the imminence of risk or grave danger. Similarly, the definition of child abuse includes emotional abuse maltreatment or injury as an important component of child abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014), obesity or overweight children are likely to suffer from poor self-esteem, stigmatization, stress, social retardation and other forms of abuse included in definition of child abuse by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (2015). While the effects may not be immediate, but the consumption of fast foods exposes children to a heightened risk of developing obesity and weight problems and hence the risk of emotional abuse. The risk exists, and the legal standard for the causal factor to be categorized as mounting to child abuse, is the imminence of the danger of the children suffering from emotional abuse. Since, the chain of causation flows from the consumption of fast foods by children and the exposure of fast foods advertising to children, it then follows that fast foods amount to emotional abuse of children.
Perhaps the strongest argument against the definition of fast foods as an abuse is the fact that it is still possible to ensure that children get a balanced diet even with fast foods. If fast foods are consumed in moderation, and caregivers/parents make certain that children also eat other healthy foods, then the health problems associated with fast foods would not exist. In addition, not all fast foods are nutritionally deficient. Major players in the fast foods industry have made great strides in ensuring the that their foods are acceptably healthy. Fruits and vegetables are now an important part of menus, which should ensure that children have a balanced diet. As against categorizing all fast foods as abusive to children, it is more constructive to draw a line between fast foods served without fruits and vegetables. Regulation of the industry, including the restriction of selling or advertising fast foods to children is yet another way to limit the injurious intake of fast foods. Lastly, fats foods are not the only risk factors predisposing children to obesity, diabetes, and other diseases. Other factors, including sedentary lifestyles, urbanization, poverty, and nutritional transitions due to globalization also lead to the development of similar health problems, besides worsening the effects of fast foods consumption (Levine, 2011; Hu, 2011).
The definition of cruelty to children includes four separate components i.e. physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and abandonment, and sexual exploitation (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011; Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2014). It is arguable that knowingly permit or causing children to consume fast foods can lead to a credible risk of emotional and physical abuse, and amounts to negligence on the part of caregivers and parents. Even if fast foods are not the sole risk factor for the development of obesity/diabetes, the causal link has been proven significant. The legal test for cruelty to children includes actions, omissions and exposure to circumstances likely to cause physical and psychological impairment. Permitting or causing children to consume nutritionally deficient food amounts to exposing them to the risk of physical and mental difficulties to the extent of the said deficiency. It also amounts to a failure of parents and caregivers to provide children with proper and necessary nutrition. Effectively, fast foods pose a threat to the immediate and future health and welfare of children, besides imposing a growing burden on the health care systems across the world. Recognizing the threat posed by fast food requires that it be categorized as amounting to cruelty to children.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Childhood Obesity Facts. Atlanta, GA. Retirved from http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/obesity/facts.htm: US Department of Health and Human Services.
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2014). Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CHildren's Bureau.
Hu, F. B. (2011). Globalization of Diabetes: The role of diet, lifestyle, and genes. Diabetes Care June vol. 34 no. 6 , 1249-1257 .
Levine, J. (2011). Poverty and Obesity in the U.S. Diabetes November vol. 60 no. 11 2667-2668.
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. (2015, Jan 3). Emotional Abuse. Retrieved Jan 30, 2015, from http://www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/emotional-abuse/what-is-emotional-abuse/#
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2011). The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) 2010. Washington: U.S. Department of Helath and Human Services.
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