kids unhealthy food

Posted on at

Moms manipulated into buying their kids unhealthy food, study says

Researchers from the <a href="" target="_blank">University of Connecticut Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity</a> ranked how often children ages 6 to 11 saw snack ads in 2014 based on Nielsen syndicated data. <br /><br />The products children saw advertised most often were <a href="" target="_blank">Betty Crocker fruit snacks</a>, such as Fruit Gushers and Fruit Roll-Ups. Children saw those ads an average of 97.1 times in 2014, the report said.

Children are treated to a buffet of television ads for juice drinks, cereals and snacks that feature fun characters and humor. And parents see almost as many commercials for children's food products, but their ads promote nutrition and family togetherness, according to a new study.Children ages 6 to 11 saw an average of 80.6 ads for <a href="" target="_blank">Yoplait GoGurt</a> in 2014, researchers said.

Researchers looked through a database of all the TV advertisements for packaged foods and beverages in the United States between 2013 and 2014. They singled out the products intended for children as those advertised on Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and other kids' channels, and then looked for ads for these products that aired on other channels.Children ages 6 to 11 saw an average of 34 ads for <a href="" target="_blank">Pepperidge Farm Goldfish</a> in 2014, the report said.

Related: Kids seeing more unhealthy snack ads, report says

The researchers concluded that 25 of the 51 food products intended for children were also advertised specifically to parents during the period, based on the fact that the ads featured scenes of parental figures and children playing, hugging or kissing. Of all the airtime that ads for children's food products got, parents were targeted 42% of the time.Children ages 6 to 11 saw an average of 29.7 ads for <a href="" target="_blank">Yoplait yogurt</a> in 2014, researchers said.

"It is a dual-pronged approach where food manufacturers are targeting kids to pester (their parents) for these products, and then manufacturers are marketing to parents to get them to think these products are healthy and not to feel guilty about buying them," said Jennifer A. Emond, epidemiology instructor at Dartmouth Geisel School of Medicine. Emond is the lead author of the study, which was published on Sunday in the journal Pediatrics.Children ages 6 to 11 saw an average of 27.6 ads for <a href="" target="_blank">Nature Valley Snack Bars</a> in 2014, researchers said.

While the ads for these products on children's channels were more likely to focus on fun and humor, and include animation or mascots for the brand, the parent-directed ads emphasized health benefits and nutritional information for the products.Children ages 6 to 11 saw an average of 21.8 ads for <a href="" target="_blank">Dannon Danimals</a> yogurt in 2014, researchers said.

However, a recent report from University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that many of the products that are advertised to children, such as sugar-sweetened juice beverages and cereals, do not meet federal standards for healthy snacks. And, as Emond pointed out, the ads that parents are seeing are for these same products.

Although the findings of this study are concerning, they are not surprising, said Corey Basch, associate professor of public health at William Paterson University, who was not involved in the study. "We are seeing an influx of advertising aimed at parents for a wide array of products, including food and beverages, toothpaste and vitamins," Basch said.Children ages 6 to 11 saw an average of 21.4 ads for <a href="" target="_blank">PopTarts</a> in 2014, researchers said.

"This is a sad situation when it takes so much energy to sift through false claims and to determine which products are actually healthful ... advertising claims, especially when they are unsubstantiated, can certainly lead parents astray," Basch said.Children ages 6 to 11 saw an average of 18.6 ads for <a href="" target="_blank">Yoplait Trix yogurt</a> in 2014, researchers said.<br />

Emond and her team did not look at whether ads directed at parents influenced what they purchased. However, they hypothesize that ads would have this effect and are looking into that possibility in their next studies.

The current study did not include many of the unhealthy children's food and beverage products, such as potato chips and soda, which may be advertised to parents, Emond said. The researchers defined children's products as those that were advertised on channels specifically for children. However, the Rudd Center report noted that ads targeting children are also aired on general audience channels during shows that mostly children watch.Children ages 6 to 11 saw an average of 18.1 ads for <a href="" target="_blank">Yoplait Greek yogurt </a>in 2014, researchers said.

The practice of advertising children's food products to parents could only be getting more common as food manufacturers face increasing pressure from health researchers, advocacy and federal groups not to advertise unhealthy products, Emond said. "I expect to see more parent-directed marketing in the future," she added.Children ages 6 to 11 saw an average of 17.2 ads for <a href="" target="_blank">Tostitos</a> in 2014, researchers said.

The study even hints that advertisements for unhealthy products could be shifting from kids to parents. There is increasing awareness that sugar-sweetened beverages are not healthy for kids, and 73% of the ads for these products, particularly for fruit drinks, targeted parents. The opposite was true for yogurts, which are generally considered healthy, with 74% of their ads targeting children.

About the author