Last May I wrote a post about children’s junk food advertising, the title of which says it all: “Self Regulation of Kids’ Food Advertising: A Doomed Effort.”
In it, I described how a voluntary industry program to rein in children’s food and beverage marketing has done little to limit kids’ exposure to ads for foods of questionable nutritional value. This photo montage shows some of the products which meet the food industry’s so-called “meaningful, science-based” nutrition criteria:
But if we had any doubt about why the food and beverage industries spend almost $2 billion a year just to reach our kids, a new meta-analysis of existing studies confirms one thing: food advertising is incredibly effective.
Looking at 45 past studies with over 3,000 participants, collectively, researchers at the Yale University found that mere exposure to food advertising increases eating and weight gain across a wide spectrum of individuals, including children. Interestingly, the researchers further found that “visual food cues (e.g. pictures and videos) were associated with a similar effect size to real food exposure and a stronger effect size than olfactory cues.” In other words, seeing an ad for delicious food can create the same degree of craving as actually being exposed to the food and is even more compelling than being enticed by food’s aroma.
Speaking to NPR, lead Yale researcher Hedy Kober said, ”We found very, very strong relationships between reactivity and cues and weight and eating. Why do we still allow food advertising when children can sit in front of TV cartoons, and in between they get exposed to burgers, fries, chocolate — things we know are nutritionally not the best? [Those ads] lead them to ask [for] and want to eat those foods, and that’s something we need to think about really seriously.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Kober’s sentiments, and would further point out that since young children can’t even understand the persuasive intent of marketing, there are serious ethical concerns about targeting them with ads. Moreover, a 2012 study found that parents are as concerned about kids’ junk food marketing as they are about alcohol and tobacco use in the media.
But, unfortunately, the food and beverage industries have shown us repeatedly that they’re able to handily quash any governmental efforts to rein in their marketing to kids; I hold out little hope that we’ll see meaningful legislation curbing children’s food and beverage advertising any time soon.
Do you love The Lunch Tray? ♥♥♥ Follow TLT on Facebook and Twitter! You can also subscribe to Lunch Tray posts, and be sure to download my FREE 40-page guide, “How to Get Junk Food Out of Your Child’s Classroom.”