Kids Still See Unhealthy-Food Ads on TV, Study Finds

And exposure to fast-food advertising has spiked in recent years, researchers say

TUESDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- American children see fewer food and drink ads on television today, but most of the ads they view are for unhealthy products, a new study says.

The study also found a large jump in children's exposure to TV ads for fast-food restaurants.

The findings suggest food industry self-regulation has done little to reduce children's exposure to ads for unhealthy products, the researchers said.

They examined changes in food, beverage and restaurant TV ads seen by children before and after the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative was enacted in 2006. Companies in the voluntary program agreed to limit ads for unhealthy foods and beverages that target children 11 years and younger.

From 2003 to 2009, daily exposure to food, beverage and restaurant ads fell by 18 percent among children ages 2 to 5 and by 7 percent among children ages 6 to 11. But in 2009, 86 percent of all TV food and beverage ads targeted at children 11 years and younger still featured unhealthy products high in saturated fat, sugar or sodium.

This percentage was even higher (88 percent) among companies that were part of the voluntary program to limit such ads, the study authors noted.

"Our findings show that industry self-regulation has had limited impact, particularly on the types of products companies continue to advertise," lead researcher Lisa M. Powell, of the University of Illinois at Chicago and Bridging the Gap, a national research program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a foundation news release.

"There was greater improvement in ads targeting kids ages 2 to 5, but more limited progress for ads seen by kids ages 6 to 11. And fast-food ads increased substantially -- kids 11 and under are seeing more ads for fast food than any other type of food," she added.

The study was published Aug. 1 in the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers an overview of child nutrition.

Robert Preidt SOURCE: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, news release, Aug. 1, 2011

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