A new study shows that 53% of food products approved for advertising on TV programs that cater to kids do not meet U.S. recommended government nutrition guidelines.
Kids see 10 to 13 food-related TV ads every day, says the study published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease, and about half of those ads air during programs that specifically cater to children. The researchers looked at two sets of nutritional guidelines designed specifically to recommend whether a food should appear in a commercial aired during kids’ programming: one set is from a food-and-beverage industry group called the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), and the other is from a government group that represents the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, called the Interagency Working Group (IWG).
The study authors looked at the 407 foods approved by the CFBAI to see how they matched up to the recommendations from the IWG. More than half of the foods fell short of the IWG standards, they found.
The researchers evaluated the foods based on the IWG’s “nutrients to limit” list, which includes caps for things like saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium. They found that 32% of the CFBAI-approved foods were above the suggested limit for sugar, 23% were above the limit for saturated fat and 15% were over for sodium. Fewer than 1% were over the limit for trans fat.
These are the foods that appeared most often on television commercials, they concluded. “Companies manufacture food and beverage products that meet IWG recommendations; however, these are not the products most heavily marketed to children,” the study reads. “Evidence shows that 96% of food and beverage product advertisements (excluding those for restaurants) seen by children on children’s television programs were for products high in nutrients to limit.”
“A viable solution to this would be for companies to choose to advertise food and beverage products on children’s programming from the 47% of products from their approved list that do meet the IWG recommendations,” says study author Rebecca Schermbeck, a research specialist at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Until then, the study suggests, kids who watch TV are probably still seeing ads for foods that don’t square with recommended national nutritional guidelines.