Nutritional Content of Food and Beverage Products in Television Advertisements Seen on Children's Programming

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During 2009, more than 84 percent of food ads seen by children (6-11 years of age) were for products high in nutrients to limit.

The Issue:
Examining children’s exposure to TV advertisements for food can aid in understanding the rise of childhood obesity. This study assesses both the exposure to food-related TV advertisements among children and the nutritional quality of the food advertised.

Key Findings

  • On average, children ages 2-5, saw 10.9 food-related ads per day on TV, and children ages 6-11 saw 12.7.

  • 84.4 percent of food and beverage product ads seen by children 6-11 years of age (84.1% for children ages 2-5) were for products high in nutrients to limit (NTL) based on Interagency Working Group (IWG) recommendations.

  • Ads seen on children’s programming were nearly all for products high in NTL (95.8% and 97.3%).

  • A total of 97.8 and 98.1 percent of Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) company-member ads seen on children’s programming were for products high in NTL.

Conclusion:
TV advertisements seen by children often feature foods failing to meet IWG recommendations. The study’s findings also suggest that self-regulation is not successfully limiting exposure to unhealthy food and beverage advertising. More monitoring is required.  

About the Study:
TV ratings from 2009 were collected for children 2-5 and 6-11 years of age. Nutritional content of food and beverage products in advertisements was assessed for all programming and children’s programming, using the federal IWG recommended NTL, which included fat, sugar, and sodium.