Children saw fewer television advertisements for certain foods, including those for sweets and beverages, in 2007 compared with 2003, according to a report posted online today that will appear in the September print issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals. However, children now see more fast-food ads, and racial gaps in exposure to all food advertising have increased.
An Institute of Medicine (IOM) report concluded that there was strong evidence that television advertising influences the short-term eating habits of children age 2 to 11, and moderate evidence that advertising influences their usual dietary intake, according to background information in the article. In 2006, 10 major U.S. food companies pledged to devote at least half of their child-targeted advertising to healthier products or encouraging good nutrition and healthy lifestyles, an effort called the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. By 2009, 16 companies had signed on. "Given that each company defined their own better-for-you products and also had different definitions of what constituted children's programming, key questions remain," the authors write.
To assess trends in food advertising before and after the initiative, Lisa M. Powell, Ph.D., and colleagues at the University of Illinois at Chicago studied television ratings data from Nielsen Media Research for the calendar years 2003, 2005 and 2007.
Between 2003 and 2007, daily average exposure to televised food ads decreased by 13.7 percent among children age 2 to 5 and 3.7 percent among children age 6 to 11, but increased by 3.7 percent among teens age 12 to 17. Ads for sweets became less frequent, with a 41 percent decrease in exposure for 2- to 5-year-olds, 29.3 percent for 6- to 11-year-olds and 12.1 percent for 12- to 17-year-olds. Beverage ads also decreased in frequency, by about 27 percent to 30 percent across age groups, with substanti
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