Advertising works. Research has “documented that marketing practices that push items like sugary cereals, salted snacks and fast food put children’s long-term health at risk, by promoting unhealthy eating habits.” Under pressure from the Institute of Medicine and other groups, the food industry launched an initiative in 2006, pledging to “cut back on marketing unhealthy foods to children under 12.” It’s a voluntary effort on the part of industry, but many major corporations, including Kraft Foods, Kellogg, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola do take part.
Has it worked?
“The foods being advertised to kids are healthier than ever,” Elaine Kolish, the director of the industry’s initiative, wrote to us in an email. And as research published this week in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine concludes, the companies have indeed met their targets.
Others aren’t ready to call the initiative an unqualified success.
…it’s too soon to give the industry a congratulatory high-five, according to Dale Kunkel, a professor emeritus of communications at the University of Arizona and one of the authors of the study.
He tells us that the companies’ efforts “have barely moved the needle in terms of shifting food advertising to children to genuinely healthy products.”
The research team used a food-grading system known as GO, SLOW and WHOA (“WHOA” reflects the unhealthiest foods) to assess what kinds of food were being advertised to kids while they watched television. The results?
“Their analysis shows that in 2013, 75 percent of food ads targeted toward children by companies participating in the initiative “promoted products in the poorest nutritional category.”
Simply put, most foods marketed on TV to kids are “Whoa” foods. Companies may be reducing the amount of sugar or sodium in their products, or shaving down portion sizes, but they’re still not promoting nutrient-dense “Go” foods.
An incredibly interesting read.