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Foods Advertised to Children Still Do Not Fit Nutrition Standards

Update Date: Jul 09, 2013 02:23 PM EDT

With childhood obesity continuing to grow, controlling weight gain by teaching children about healthy eating and habits is important. Recently, companies have stated that they would advertise healthier food products to children, encouraging them to eat better for their bodies. Despite several pledges from these companies, a new study found that billions of advertisements that show up on children's websites are still promoting unhealthy food choices. This study, the first of its kind to review the types of advertisements on children's websites, fond that companies have not kept their word.

The study was conducted by the Yale Rudd Center where researchers compared popular websites, such as Nick.com and CartoonNetwork.com. The researchers utilized Internet data from comScore in order to get an idea of which children's websites were viewed with what kinds of food advertisements. The researchers used data compiled from July 2009 to June 2010. Food advertisements were categorized based on type of food and the manufacturers' participation in the self-regulatory program, the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). CFBAI was created to get food manufactures to only advertise healthy options to children. On top of these classifications, the researchers also looked into the foods' nutritional quality.

The team found that every year, there are roughly 3.4 billion food and beverage display advertisements directed towards children on popular websites. Over 50 percent of these advertisements appeared on Nick.com and NeoPets.com, both owned by Viacom, with children viewing an average of 30 food advertisements per month on NeoPets.com alone. The researchers found that three-fourths of the brands that were participating in CFBAI were categorized as healthier options for children. However, even though the brands were better, the researchers found that 84 percent of them were advertising foods that were high in fat, sugar and/or sodium. The researchers concluded that CFBAI companies did not necessarily promote foods that were healthier according to government nutrition standards.

The U.S. Congress has since started an Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) in order to fix these differences. The group is made up of four government agencies with the goal of creating a new and better set of guidelines for companies to follow.

The study was published in Pediatric Obesity. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation funded the study.

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