Food Marketing to Children on U.S. Spanish-Language Television

More than 84 percent of all foods and beverages advertised to children on Spanish-language television shows are unhealthy.

Previous research indicates that Latino children have disproportionately high rates of obesity, and marketing of high-calorie and nutrient-poor foods and beverages is linked to overweight and obesity among children and youths in the United States. Funded through the Healthy Eating Research program, this article examines Spanish-language children’s television and its food and beverage advertising.

This study analyzed the ad content for 158 Spanish-language television shows for children and compared them to ad content for 139 English-language programs, collected between February and April 2009. Nutritional quality of advertised products were evaluated using the U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ (DHHS) food rating system.

Key Findings:

  • The majority of child-directed ads (84.2% on Spanish shows and 72.5% on English shows) promoted Whoa products, such as candy, sugary cereals, fries, and sodas, which fall into the poorest nutritional category as defined by DHHS.
  • Among companies that pledged to reform their child-directed advertising practices to encourage healthier choices, 78 percent of ads for children on Spanish-language television and 69 percent of ads for children on English-language television were for unhealthy foods or drinks.
  • Fast-food commercials accounted for nearly half (46%) of all child-targeted food advertising on Spanish-language television.
  • Ads for healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, were extremely rare, accounting for just 1 percent or fewer of all ads in either language.

This study shows significant disparities existing between the foods marketed on television to Spanish-speaking children as compared to English-speaking children, and should be considered in public health policy.

RWJF Policy Priority: Reduce youths’ exposure to the marketing of unhealthy foods through regulation, policy, and effective industry self-regulation.

Unhealthy foods and beverages are heavily marketed to children, and research shows that exposure to food marketing messages increases children’s obesity risk.

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84%

of foods & drinks advertised to kids on Spanish-language TV are unhealthy.

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