Fast Food Facts 2013

Measuring Progress in the Nutritional Quality and Marketing of Fast Food to Children and Teens

Hands of woman holding hamburger, and fries.

The nutritional quality of fast-food meals, and how those meals are marketed to children and teens, has improved, but more work is needed.

The Issue:
Fast Food FACTS 2013, issued by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, examines the nutritional quality of fast food, and how restaurants market their foods and beverages to children and teens. The report examines 18 of the top restaurant chains in the United states, and updates a similar report released in 2010.

Key Findings

  • A total of $4.6 billion was spent on all advertising by fast food restaurants in 2012. This was an 8 percent increase over 2009. McDonald's spent 2.7 times as much to advertise its products as all fruit, vegetable, bottled water, and milk advertisers combined.

  • Less than 1 percent of all kids’ meal combinations met recommended nutrition standards.

  • On average, U.S. preschoolers viewed 2.8 fast food ads on TV every day in 2012; children aged 6-11 years viewed 3.2 ads per day; and teens viewed 4.8 ads per day.

  • Fast food restaurants continued to target black and Hispanic youth, populations at high risk for obesity and related diseases.

Conclusion:
Researchers conclude that while improvements have been made, there is more work to be done to improve the overall nutritional quality of fast food. Additionally, the researchers call for fast food restaurants to stop targeting children and teens with marketing that encourages frequent visits to these restaurants.

About the Study:
The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity used the same methods as it did for the original Fast Food FACTS in 2010. Nutritional data were collected in February 2013, and most marketing data examine practices through 2012. The report was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Marketing to Kids

Marketing to Kids

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

Learn more about RWJF's work related to food and beverage marketing