Regulation of junk food advertising has minimal impact

October 3, 2012
Regulation of junk food advertising has minimal impact
Professor Jason Halford: “Unhealthy foods are still heavily promoted and healthier options are significantly under-represented”.

(Medical Xpress)—Researchers at the University of Liverpool have found that regulations introduced to reduce children's exposure to junk food advertising have not had a significant impact.

Dr Emma Boyland, from the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, compared food adverts broadcast on the 13 UK most popular with children in February 2008, with those from the same period in 2010.  Results showed that, a year after regulations to limit the number of adverts for unhealthy food products were fully enforced, there had only been a slight reduction in the junk food children were exposed to.

Slight drop

The research found that the proportion of advertising for food products did drop slightly over the two year period (from 13% to 11.7%) but the reduction was in advertising for both healthy and unhealthy foods. Therefore, the study found that TV food advertising in the UK is still dominated by promotions for unhealthy products and healthier options are rarely seen. 

Professor Jason Halford, Head of the Department of , said: "Although advertising of unhealthy foods to children on UK television is now regulated, our study found that this has had very little impact on the advertising of high fat, sugar and/or salt (HFSS) foods children are exposed to.   are still heavily promoted and healthier options are significantly under-represented. 

"The links between TV advertising and unhealthy diets are well-known so this study shows that TV advertising of unhealthy food products is still a major threat to children's health.  Regulations must be re-examined to tackle food advertising not just on child-targeted programming but during the television that children actually watch."

during dedicated children's programming did fall between 2008 and 2010 but did not change in prevalence during children's peak viewing times.  The study also found that children are still exposed to extensive advertising for HFSS foods during family programmes (such as the X Factor and soap operas) which have large child audiences but escape regulation.

Increasing pediatric obesity

Research has shown that TV advertising has a strong effect on children's food choices and intake. There are concerns about the link between the advertising of unhealthy food products and increasing levels of pediatric obesity in the UK and across Europe.

The findings by the University of Liverpool reflect the report `A Junk-free Childhood 2012: Marketing food and beverages to children in Europe' recently published by the International Association for the Study of Obesity.  This report found that children's exposure to products has fallen by barely a quarter over the last six years and that self-regulation of advertising of junk to does not work in a highly competitive marketplace.

Explore further: TV food advertising increases children's preference for unhealthy foods

Related Stories

TV food advertising increases children's preference for unhealthy foods

June 30, 2011
Researchers at the University of Liverpool have found that children who watch adverts for unhealthy food on television are more likely to want to eat high-fat and high-sugar foods.

New regulations fail to make TV food adverts healthier for children

February 15, 2012
Despite new regulations restricting UK TV advertisements for food, children are still exposed to the same level of advertising for junk foods which are high in fat, salt and sugar, researchers have found.

The truth about advertising junk food to children: It works

May 10, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Children exposed to advertisements for high-calorie and nutrient-poor foods consume more unhealthy foods overall, regardless of the specific product and brand being marketed, finds a new study from the ...

Australia: Kids' exposure to junk food ads unchanged despite regulations

June 27, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Children's exposure to television advertising for unhealthy fast food has remained unchanged since the introduction of industry self-regulation, according to new research from the University of Sydney.

Recommended for you

Clay-based antimicrobial packaging keeps food fresh

August 21, 2017
Sometimes it seems as if fresh fruits, vegetables and meats go bad in the blink of an eye. Consumers are left feeling frustrated, often turning to less expensive processed foods that last longer but are less nutritious. Now ...

Newly deciphered vitamin D regulatory pathway opens doors to clinical research

August 21, 2017
Biochemists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have deciphered the molecular mechanisms that underpin how the synthesis of the active form of vitamin D is regulated in the kidney, summing up decades of research in this ...

Despite benefits, half of parents against later school start times

August 18, 2017
Leading pediatrics and sleep associations agree: Teens shouldn't start school so early.

Doctors exploring how to prescribe income security

August 18, 2017
Physicians at St. Michael's Hospital are studying how full-time income support workers hired by health-care clinics can help vulnerable patients or those living in poverty improve their finances and their health.

Schoolchildren who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try tobacco

August 17, 2017
Vaping - or the use of e-cigarettes - is widely accepted as a safer option for people who are already smoking.

Federal snack program does not yield expected impacts, researchers find

August 17, 2017
A well-intentioned government regulation designed to offer healthier options in school vending machines has failed to instill better snacking habits in a sample of schools in Appalachian Virginia, according to a study by ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.