The facts on junk food marketing and kids

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The food, beverage, and chain restaurant industries say they’re on the side of health, but their actions show otherwise.

WNBIfullExperts agree that junk food is a huge contributor to skyrocketing rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and even strokes. And food and beverage companies spend billions of dollars promoting unhealthy foods virtually everywhere kids go. The Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children (IWG) has proposed reasonable nutrition guidelines to help provide a model for companies that market to kids. Unfortunately, the food industry and media companies are working to get Congress to stop the IWG from finalizing these sensible recommendations.

Read the facts below and watch “We’re Not Buying It,” a video that exposes deceptive marketing to children, debunks industry claims, and highlights the latest research. When we put children first, the plan of action is clear: companies should market the foods that keep kids healthy, not sugary cereals and other junk food.  The IWG guidelines will help to do just that.

The food, beverage, and chain restaurant industry is
targeting our children with intensive junk food marketing

  • The food and beverage industry spends approximately $2 billion per year marketing to children. 1
  • The fast food industry spends more than $5 million every day marketing unhealthy foods to children. 1
  • Kids watch an average of over ten food-related ads every day (nearly 4,000/year). 2
  • Ad spending for interactive video games is projected to reach $1 billion by 2014, with six million 3-11 year olds visiting some form of virtual game online each month.3
  • Nearly all (98 percent) of food advertisements viewed by children are for products that are high in fat, sugar or sodium. Most (79 percent) are low in fiber. 4

And it’s working…

  • Nearly 40% of children’s diets come from added sugars and unhealthy fats. 5_40percent
  • Only 21% of youth age 6-19 eat the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day 6
  • A mere 12% of grains consumed by children are whole 7
  • One study found that when children were exposed to television content with food advertising, they consumed 45 percent more food than children exposed to content with non-food adverting. 8

The food and beverage industry may say they’re on the side of health,
but their actions show otherwise

  • A 2011 review found that “company pledges to reduce food marketing of unhealthy products have failed to protect children <12 years for all types of marketing practices promoting such foods”. 9_locallawsheadline
  • Additionally, in 2010, an independent study documented that only 12 of 3039 children’s meal combinations in fast food chain restaurants met established nutrition criteria for preschoolers; only 15 meals met nutrition criteria for older children. 10
  • Each day, African-American children see twice as many calories advertised in fast-food commercials as White children. 10
  • In 2010, the food and beverage industry spent over $40 billion lobbying congress against several regulations including those that would decrease the marketing of unhealthy foods to kids, and potential soda taxes. 11
  • A study conducted by Prevention Institute in 2007, found that over half of the most aggressively marketed children's foods advertising fruit on the packaging actually contain no fruit ingredients whatsoever. 12
  • In 2011, a second study by researchers at Prevention Institute looked at packages with front of package labeling - symbols that identify healthier products - and found that 84% of products studied didn’t meet basic nutritional standards. 13

If we continue on this path, the future health of our children is not so bright

  • Even five years after children have been exposed to promotions of unhealthy foods, researchers found that they purchased fewer fruits, vegetables and whole grains, but increased their consumption of fast foods, fried foods and sugar-sweetened beverages. 14
  • According to the CDC, if current trends continue, 1 of 3 U.S. adults will have diabetes by 2050 15
  • By 2030, healthcare costs attributable to poor diet and inactivity could range from $860 billion to $956 billion, which would account for 15.8 to 17.6 percent of total healthcare costs, or one in every six dollars spent on healthcare.16

It’s time to stand up to big food companies and protect the health of our kids.
Ask President Obama to insure that voluntary guidelines for food marketing to kids are put into place.



1 Kovacic, W. e. (2008). Marketing food to children and adolescents: A review of industry expenditures, activities, and self-regulation: A Federal Trade Commission report to Congress. Federal Trade Commission.
2 Powell LM, S. R. (2011). Trends in the nutritional content of television food advertisements seen by children in the United States: Analyses by age, food categories, and companies. Archives of Pediatric Adolescent Medicine .
3 Chester J, M. K. (2009). Digital marketing: Opportunities for addressing interactive food and beverage marketing to youth. Berkeley Media Studies Group, Berkeley.
4 Story M, L. N. (2008). Food and beverage marketing to children and adolescents research brief. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
5 Reedy J, K.-S. S. (2010). Dietary sources of energy, solid fats, and added sugars among children and adolescents in the United States. Journal of the American Dietetic Association , 110, 1477-1484.
6 (2004). Physical activity and good nutrition: Essential elements to preventing chronic disease and obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
7(2009). National health and nutrition examination survey. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
8 Harris JL, B. J. (2009). Priming effects of television food advertising on eating behavior. Healthy Psychology , 28 (4), 404-413.
9 Kraak, V. e. (2011). Industry progress to market a healthful diet to American children and adolescents. American Journal of Preventive Medicine , 41 (3), 322-333.
10 Harris JL, S. M. (2010). Fast food FACTS: Evaluating fast food nutrition and marketing to youth. Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.
11 (2009). Food and beverage industry profile. Center for Responsive Politics.
12 Mikkelsen L, Merlo C, Lee V, Chao C. (2007). Where’s the fruit?: Fruit content of the most highly-advertised children’s food and beverages. Prevention Institute.
13 Sims J, Mikkelsen L, Gibson P, Warming E. (2011). Claiming health: Front-of-Package labeling of children’s food. Prevention Institute.
14 Barr-Anderson DJ, L. N.-S. (2009). Does television viewing predict dietary intake five years later in high school students and young adults? . Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act , 6 (7).
15 (2011). Diabetes: Success and opportunities for population-based prevention and control. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
16 Wang Y, B. M. (2008). Will all Americans become overweight or obese: Estimating the progression and cost of the US obesity epidemic. Obesity , 16 (10), 2323-2330.