I’m catching up on news items from last week and wanted to share an important new study from The Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity regarding how parents view food industry marketing practices targeted toward their children, a study which, according to the Rudd Center, is the first of its kind.
Surveying 2,454 parents with children aged 2 to 17, the Rudd Center found that:
Parents were as concerned about junk food marketing to children as they were about alcohol and tobacco use in the media. The surveyed parents were highly aware of the “pester power” of food marketing and its effects on their children’s food preferences.
The report also found relatively high parental support for a variety of policies to promote healthier eating among children, including some restrictions on the advertising of food to kids. Specifically, the report found that:
The majority of parents surveyed . . . endorsed policies to restrict food marketing to children, with highest support for prohibiting advertising on school buses (69%) and requiring companies to fund advertising for healthy and unhealthy foods equally (68%). Parents also approved of regulations to limit specific types of unhealthy food marketing to children under 12, including advertising/sponsorships in schools (65%), mobile marketing (65%), TV commercials (63%), viral marketing (62%), and internet advertising (61%).
There is much more to be learned from this groundbreaking study, including the environmental factors parents cite most often as obstacles to healthy eating and analyses of the responses along ethnic and political lines. The entire report is found here.
Given that food industry self-regulation in this area has been almost comically weak, and given how hard (and successfully) the industry lobbied last year against purely voluntary federal advertising guidelines, it’s clear that only political pressure from consumers and parents will bring about real reforms. In quantifying parents’ views about these issues for the first time, the Rudd Center brings us a step closer to making those reforms a reality.
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