The researchers looked at the nutritional content of ads on children’s shows with a child-audience share of 35 percent or greater and whether they compared favorably to the proposed nutritional guidelines recommended by the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children. The guidelines have been developed to limit saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars and sodium due to their demonstrated effects on health and body weight.
The study also examined food industry accountability by examining the products released by food companies that had pledged to promote healthier food choices to children or refrain from targeting children under the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). CFBAI was implemented in 2006 and includes 16 companies that voluntarily committed to a healthier food initiative.
“We found that less than half of children’s exposure to ads for food and beverage products comes from children’s programming, meaning that a significant portion of exposure is not subject to self-regulation,” said Lisa Powell, professor of health policy and administration in the UIC School of Public Health and lead author of the study.
A high percentage of ads (84 %) targeted at children were found to advertise products high in fats, sugars and sodium. On children’s programming, more than 95 percent of ads were for products high in the unhealthy contents.
Nearly all the ads involved by companies that pledged to commit to the CFBAI standards seen on children’s programming failed to meet recommended federal nutrition principle with 97 percent advertising products high in fats, sugars and sodium.
“The self-regulatory effort has been ineffective so far,” Powell said. In response to the study the CFBAI has proposed new, uniform nutrition criteria for member companies beginning Dec. 31, to replace the varying nutrition standards set by each company currently. It remains to be seen if self regulation will be effective.
Lisa Powell et al. Nutritional Content of Food and Beverage Products in Television Advertisements Seen on Children’s Programming. Childhood Obesity, December 2013