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Trends in Exposure to Television Food Advertisements Among Children and Adolescents in the U.S.

Powell LM, Szczypka G and Chaloupka FJ. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 164(9): 794-802, 2010. 

Objective: To examine the trends in food advertising seen by American children and adolescents.

Design: Trend analysis of children’s and adolescents’ exposure to food advertising in 2003, 2005, and 2007, including separate analyses by race.

Participants: Children aged 2 to 5 years and 6 to 11 years and adolescents aged 12 to 17 years.

Main Exposure: Television ratings.

Main Outcome Measures: Exposure to total food advertising and advertising by food category.

Results: Between 2003 and 2007 daily average exposure to food ads fell by 13.7% and 3.7% among young children aged 2 to 5 and 6 to 11 years, respectively, but increased by 3.7% among adolescents aged 12 to 17 years. Exposure to sweets ads fell 41%, 29.3%, and 12.1%, respectively, for 2- to 5-, 6- to 11-, and 12- to 17-year-olds and beverage ads were down by about 27% to 30% across these age groups, with substantial decreases in exposure to ads for the most heavily advertised sugar-sweetened beverages - fruit drinks and regular soft drinks. Exposure to fast food ads increased by 4.7%, 12.2%, and 20.4% among children aged 2 to 5, 6 to 11, and 12 to 17 years, respectively, between 2003 and 2007. The racial gap in exposure to food advertising grew between 2003 and 2007, particularly for fast food ads.

Conclusions: A number of positive changes have occurred in children’s exposure to food advertising. Continued monitoring of food advertising exposure along with nutritional analyses is needed to further assess selfregulatory pledges.

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