Junk food still stars in TV ads seen by kids

Tue Aug 9, 2011 9:57pm EDT
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By Amy Norton

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children are seeing fewer sugary, fatty foods advertised on TV, but unhealthy fare still makes up the bulk of food commercials they see, a new study suggests.

What's more, researchers found, children were actually seeing more fast-food commercials in 2009 compared with six years earlier.

The study, reported in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, was aimed at gauging the effects of a voluntary food industry program called the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI).

The initiative began in 2006, in response to calls from the Federal Trade Commission and the Institute of Medicine for greater self-regulation of food advertising to children.

It now includes 17 companies -- including Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, General Mills and Kellogg -- that have pledged to improve the nutritional content of the ads they run during programs geared mainly for kids younger than 12.

The current study looked not only at ads aired during children's programs, but all commercials seen by the under-12 set (based on Nielsen ratings data).

It found that by 2009, children were seeing fewer high-fat, high-sugar or high-sodium foods in TV ads, compared with what they were seeing in 2003.

Still, the bulk of 2009 ads -- 86 percent -- were for fatty, sugary or salty products, according to the researchers -- down from 94 percent in 2003.   Continued...

<p>A man takes a bite from a hamburger in Hollywood, in a file photo. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson</p>