Objectives. We compared television food advertising to children in several countries.
Methods. We undertook a collaboration among 13 research groups in Australia, Asia, Western Europe, and North and South America. Each group recorded programming for 2 weekdays and 2 weekend days between 6:00 and 22:00, for the 3 channels most watched by children, between October 2007 and March 2008. We classified food advertisements as core (nutrient dense, low in energy), noncore (high in undesirable nutrients or energy, as defined by dietary standards), or miscellaneous. We also categorized thematic content (promotional characters and premiums).
Results. Food advertisements composed 11% to 29% of advertisements. Noncore foods were featured in 53% to 87% of food advertisements, and the rate of noncore food advertising was higher during children's peak viewing times. Most food advertisements containing persuasive marketing were for noncore products.
Conclusions. Across all sampled countries, children were exposed to high volumes of television advertising for unhealthy foods, featuring child-oriented persuasive techniques. Because of the proven connections between food advertising, preferences, and consumption, our findings lend support to calls for regulation of food advertising during children's peak viewing times.