Television Food Advertising to Children: A Global Perspective

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RESEARCH AND PRACTICE

Television Food Advertising to Children: A Global Perspective ˜ Bridget Kelly, MPH, Jason C.G. Halford, PhD, Emma J. Boyland, MSc, MBA, Kathy Chapman, MS, Inmaculada Bautista-Castano, MD, PhD, Christina Berg, PhD, Margherita Caroli, MD, PhD, Brian Cook, PhD, Janine G. Coutinho, MSc, Tobias Effertz, PhD, Evangelia Grammatikaki, MSc, Kathleen Keller, PhD, Raymond Leung, M Med, Yannis Manios, PhD, Renata Monteiro, PhD, Claire Pedley, MSc, Hillevi Prell, MSc, Kim Raine, PhD, Elisabetta Recine, PhD, Lluis Serra-Majem, PhD, Sonia Singh, MS, and Carolyn Summerbell, PhD

Excess weight in children is a significant global public health issue: 10% of school-aged children,1 and a further 22 million children younger than 5 years,2 are estimated to be overweight or obese. Although the absolute prevalence of childhood obesity varies between and within countries,3 obesity levels are rising across the globe.4 Food marketing to children has been recognized as 1 factor contributing to the obesitypromoting environment, and it is considered an important arena for action in the prevention of obesity.5 Systematic reviews have found that marketing generates positive beliefs about advertised foods and influences children’s food preferences, purchase requests, and consumption.6–8 These findings are a concern because advertised foods are typically the antithesis of dietary recommendations.9 Evidence from psychological research indicates that children, particularly those younger than 8 years, are not fully aware of the persuasive intent of food marketing and tend to accept advertising as truthful, accurate, and unbiased.8,10 Older children, although they may understand that advertising is intended to sell a product, may not be able to interpret these messages critically.10 Only a few studies have compared international patterns of television food advertising to children. One of these found that food and beverages were the most highly advertised products and that confectionery, presugared breakfast cereals and fast-food restaurants accounted for over half of all food advertisements.11 Analyses of persuasive marketing techniques, such as the use of promotional characters and premiums in television advertising from individual countries, have found them to be concentrated in advertisements for unhealthy food products and during the broadcast periods most popular with children. An Australian study found that the rate of

Objectives. We compared television food advertising to children in several countries. Methods. We undertook a collaboration among 13 research groups in Australia, Asia, Western Europe, and North and South America. Each group recorded programming for 2 weekdays and 2 weekend days between 6:00 and 22:00, for the 3 channels most watched by children, between October 2007 and March 2008. We classified food advertisements as core (nutrient dense, low in energy), noncore (high in undesirable nutrients or energy, as defined by dietary standards), or miscellaneous. We also categorized thematic content (promotional characters and premiums). Results. Food advertisements composed 11% to 29% of advertisements. Noncore foods were featured in 53% to 87% of food advertisements, and the rate of noncore food advertising was higher during children’s peak viewing times. Most food advertisements containing persuasive marketing were for noncore products. Conclusions. Across all sampled countries, children were exposed to high volumes of television advertising for unhealthy foods, featuring childoriented persuasive techniques. Because of the proven connections between food advertising, preferences, and consumption, our findings lend support to calls for regulation of food advertising during children’s peak viewing times. (Am J Public Health. 2010;100:1730–1736. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2009. 179267)

unhealthy food advertisements containing premiums was 18 times as high and the rate of advertisements containing promotional characters was twice...
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