Kids’ fast food ads promote toys over burgers, study finds

Aug. 28, 2013, Everyday Health

By Amir Khan

If your kid is clamoring for a Happy Meal, he may be more interested in the toy than the burger, according to a new study published in the journal PLOS ONE. Researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire found that fast food advertisements aimed at kids promote toys and movie tie-ins more than the food, which could play a role in increasing childhood obesity epidemic.

Nearly 70 percent of fast food advertisements aimed at kids promoted giveaways or a movie tie-in, according to the study, compared to only 1 percent of advertisements targeting adults. Associating fast food with cartoon characters is linked to an increased consumption of fast food, according to the researchers, who said that there needs to be strict regulations on child-targeted advertising. Continue reading

Webinar discusses how local governments can reduce food marketing to kids

Leadership for Healthy Communities, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, is hosting a webinar “Marketing Matters: How Local Governments Can Address Food Marketing to Children” on Thursday, July 25, from 2:00-3:00 p.m. EDT

The webinar will provide an overview of the role local governments can play to effectively reduce the marketing of unhealthful foods and beverages to children. Research shows a strong connection between marketing practices that target youth and an increase in the consumption of junk food that contributes to childhood obesity. Moving beyond industry self-regulation, several local governments have adopted innovative strategies to minimize the prevalence of unhealthy food and food marketing. Presenters will share examples of successful policy options to promote the marketing of healthier food and beverage options. Continue reading

Nutrition standards won’t fix ‘Big Food’s’ worst child marketing tactics

July 9, 2013, The Huffington Post

By Michele Simon

Last month, I participated in an important panel at a childhood obesity conference to discuss the current strategy backed by some advocacy groups: asking industry to market “healthier” foods to children. But as Susan Linn and I recently argued, any marketing to children is harmful, regardless of the product’s nutritional content.

Instead of begging corporations to tweak the grams of sugar, fat and salt that these highly processed junk foods contain, we should demand that industry stop exploiting children altogether. Some advocates argue this approach is too radical. But it’s actually far more practical and ultimately more effective because of certain key tactics that industry uses to target children. Continue reading

This is your brain on food commercials…

May 8, 2013, Oxford University [blog]

By Ashley N. Gearhardt

Gooey chocolate and scoops of mouth-watering chocolate ice cream. Steaming hot golden French fries. Children see thousands of commercials each year designed to increase their desire for foods high in sugar, fat, and salt like those mentioned above. Yet, we know almost nothing about how this advertising onslaught might be affecting the brain.

A recent study in Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan, Oregon Research Institute, and Yale University starts to uncover how the brain responds to food commercials in teens. Thirty adolescents visited a lab to watch a typical television show that included commercial breaks composed of frequently advertised food (e.g., McDonald’s, Wendy’s) and non-food commercials (e.g., AT&T, Ford). But unlike a typical TV viewing experience, these participants had their brain response measured in a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. Continue reading

Unhealthy ads dominate Spanish children’s television shows

May 6, 2013, NBCLatino

By Jacquellena Carrero

Latinos have some of the highest rates of obesity in the nation, and the results of a new study show that advertisers may be contributing to the problem.

A new study out by the Journal of Health Communication is showing that the vast majority of food advertisements on Spanish language television shows are unhealthy. According to the study, more than 84 percent of all foods and beverages advertised are low-nutrient and high-calorie products. The study, which was called “Food Marketing to Children on US. Spanish-Language Television” is among the first that analyzes food and beverage advertising on Spanish-language children’s television. The study was funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through its Healthy Eating Research program. Continue reading

McDonald’s fined in Brazil for pushing Happy Meals to children

April 22, 2013, Reuters

By Brad Haynes

A consumer protection agency in Brazil has taken aim at the Happy Meal, fining McDonald’s Corp on April 22 for targeting children with its advertising and toys.

The Procon agency in the state of Sao Paulo fined the fast-food company 3.2 million reais ($1.6 million), adding fuel to a global debate about fast food and public health.

As with the case in Brazil, Latin America’s biggest economy, much of the debate centers on how McDonald’s and other fast-food companies market to children and other young consumers.

While the initial fine may have little impact on the world’s largest restaurant chain, the agency said additional citations for similar advertising could arise, more than doubling the cost to McDonald’s. Consumer agencies in other jurisdictions could also soon follow the precedent in Brazil’s most populous state. Continue reading

Green food labels make nutrition-poor food seem healthy

March 12, 2013, Medical Xpress

A Cornell researcher says in a forthcoming print issue of Health Communication that consumers are more likely to perceive a candy bar as more healthful when it has a green calorie label compared with when it had a red one—even though the number of calories are  the same. And green labels increase perceived healthfulness of foods, especially among consumers who place high importance on healthy eating.

“More and more, calorie labels are popping up on the front of food packaging, including the wrappers of sugary snacks like candy bars. And currently, there’s little oversight of these labels,” said Jonathon Schuldt, assistant professor of communication and director of Cornell’s Social Cognition and Communication Lab. “Our research suggests that the color of calorie labels may have an effect on whether people perceive the food as healthy, over and above the actual nutritional information conveyed by the label, such as calorie content,” added Schuldt, who wrote the article, “Does Green Mean Healthy? Nutrition Label Color Affects Perceptions of Healthfulness.” Continue reading

Food and beverage marketing to children and adolescents: Limited progress by 2012, recommendations for the future

For decades, American children and adolescents have been surrounded by advertising and marketing for unhealthy foods and beverages. While the food and beverage industry, as well as local and national levels of government, have started to recognize the role that food and beverage marketing plays in driving the childhood obesity epidemic, American youths are still exposed to a disproportionate amount of marketing for unhealthy products across a variety of media.

This research review from Healthy Eating Research, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, summarizes the academic and industry literature on trends in food marketing to children and adolescents, as well as policy initiatives undertaken to address the contribution of marketing practices to the childhood obesity epidemic, from March 2011 to May 2012. Policy implications and future research needs are also highlighted. Continue reading

Obese kids more susceptible to food advertisements, brain scan study suggests

Nov. 30, 2012, CBS News

By Ryan Jaslow

A new study adds to the debate about the role food advertising has in the childhood obesity epidemic.

The study, published online Nov. 30 in the Journal of Pediatrics, finds obese children are more vulnerable to the food advertisements they may see on television, which in turn can make them more likely to eat as a result. Continue reading

Promoting nutrition, Disney to restrict junk-food ads

June 5, 2012, The New York Times

By Brooks Barnes

The Walt Disney Company, in an effort to address concerns about entertainment’s role in childhood obesity, plans to announce on June 5 that all products advertised on its child-focused television channels, radio stations, and websites must comply with a strict new set of nutritional standards. Continue reading