value of food and drinks advertised on children’s television programmes is worse
than food shown in ads during general air time, according to University of
Illinois at Chicago researchers.
The study is
published in the December issue of the journal Childhood Obesity.
Using Nielsen TV
ratings data from 2009, UIC researchers examined children’s exposure to food
and beverage ads seen on all both adult and children’s programming. It also
looked at the nutritional content of ads on children’s shows with a
child-audience share of 35% or greater, the first study to do so.
assessed the nutritional content of products advertised cereals, sweets, snacks,
beverages and other foods and whether they fit the proposed voluntary nutrition
guidelines recommended by the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to
Unhealthy food content
The proposed federal
guidelines, a joint effort of the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug
Administration, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the US
Department of Agriculture, would limit saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars
and sodium, due to their potential negative effects on health or body weight.
The study also noted
which ads were from food companies that pledged to promote healthier products
to children or to refrain from targeting children in their advertising, under
the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. CFBAI began in 2006 and
currently includes 16 companies that signed on, but also set their own
nutritional criteria for foods advertised to children.
“We found that less
than half of children’s exposure to ads for food and beverage products comes
from children’s programming, meaning that a significant portion of exposure is
not subject to self-regulation,” said Lisa Powell, professor of health policy
and administration in the UIC School of Public Health and lead author of the
found that more than 84% of food and beverage ads seen by children, ages 2 to
11, on all programming were for products high in fats, sugars and sodium. On
children’s programming, more than 95% of ads were for products high in those
Recommended nutritional principles
Nearly all CFBAI ads
seen on children’s programming failed to meet recommended federal nutrition principles;
more than 97% were for products high in fats, sugars and sodium.
While many foods
made by CFBAI companies meet federal nutrition guidelines, the study suggests that
the companies choose to market less-nutritional products to children more
effort has been ineffective so far,” Powell said.
The CFBAI has
proposed new, uniform nutrition criteria for member companies beginning to
replace the varying nutrition standards set by each company currently.
The new study serves
as a benchmark to determine if the new, common CFBAI nutrition criteria will
improve the content of products marketed to children, said Powell, who also
serves as associate director of UIC’s Health Policy Centre of the Institute for
Health Research and Policy.
Rebecca Schermbeck and Frank Chaloupka of UIC.
The study was supported by grants from the US Centres for Disease
Control and Prevention (award 11IPA1102973), the National Cancer Institute
(award R01CA138456) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the Bridging
the Gap program.