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Parental Attitudes about Food Marketing Revealed at APHA

Oct 30, 2012, 12:01 PM

Cereal Facts 2012

A new study from Yale’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, released Monday at APHA, finds that parents are concerned about food marketing and how it impacts their children, and that many parents would support policies to limit unhealthy food and beverage marketing to children.

Jennifer Harris, lead study author and director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center, shared her findings with a packed room on Monday afternoon. She noted that the parents in their survey were as concerned about food marketing as they were about the presence of alcohol and tobacco in the media. Parents also think that food marketing impacts their children’s preferences—for the worse.

Harris and her team conducted an online survey of more than 2,000 parents of children ages 2 to 17 in 2009, 2010, and 2011. The parents surveyed supported a wide range of policy efforts to limit unhealthy food and beverage marketing. The most popular proposal, supported by 72 – 81 percent of parents, was setting nutrition policies for foods sold in schools. Parents also supported strategies to promote healthy eating in children’s media. There also was general support for efforts to limit certain types of advertising directed at children under 12, including advertising in school, mobile marketing, TV advertising, viral marketing, and online advertising.

One other key finding was that between 2009 and 2011, the percentage of parents describing the food industry as a negative influence on their children’s eating habits increased from 59 percent to 65 percent. This timeframe coincides with the period when the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, an industry-led self-regulation effort, was up and running. The change in parent opinion during that time period may suggest that parents are not satisfied with the self-regulation.

Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center, summarized Harris’ study and other research discussed during the session in his closing remarks. He noted that there is increasing public interest in food marketing, but that there has not been concerted progress to change the mix of foods marketed to children. He called on experts in the room to develop ways of sharing their research with advocates and policy-makers interested in changing the marketing landscape.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.