Published: April 2015

ID #: 70411

Journal: Am J Prev Med

Authors: Hingle MD, Castonguay JS, Ambuel DA, Smith RM, Kunkel D

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Children and adolescents see between 4,500 and 6,000 food ads on TV each year, the majority of which are for products high in sugar and fat and low in essential nutrients. In April 2011, a coalition of federal authorities known as the Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children (IWG) proposed guidelines for the nutritional quality of foods advertised to children. The purpose of this study was to determine the extent to which televised food advertising practices targeting children ages 12 and under were consistent with these guidelines. The study sample consisted of 354 food and beverage commercials observed across 55 hours of children’s TV programming aired on national television. Analyses revealed that nearly all food ads (94%) met guidelines for trans fats; 68 percent and 62 percent met guidelines for sodium and saturated fat, respectively; and 20 percent complied with added sugar guidelines. Overall, 1.4 percent of all children-targeted food ads met all aspects of IWG guidelines. These findings suggest that child-targeted food advertising remains biased toward less healthy options, and that industry attempts at self-regulation have been unsuccessful at minimizing children’s exposure to advertising of unhealthy products.

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