Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity has issued a March 2013 report highlighting “where children and adolescents viewed the food and beverage advertisements they saw on television in 2011.” Using Nielsen data, the Rudd Center apparently sought to quantify “the average number of food and beverage TV ads viewed by age group (ages 2-5, 6-11, 12-14, 15-17) in total and by product category, as well as the channels and programs where these ads appeared.”
According to the report, four youth-oriented channels accounted for one-half of food advertising viewed by children, with Viacom’s Nickelodeon airing “over one-fourth of the food ads viewed by 2- to 11-year-olds.” Overall, 24 percent of these ads evidently featured fast-food restaurants, 12 percent featured cereal, 11 percent featured other restaurants and 11 percent featured candy. In addition, the report noted that “[f ]ive programs on the top-ten list of programs where children saw food advertising had a child-audience share of less than 30%, which falls outside the CFBAI [Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative] definition of ‘child-directed’ advertising.”
Based on these findings, the Rudd Center recommends that food companies (i) “expand CFBAI pledges to promote only healthier dietary choices in programming widely viewed by children, including 12- to 14-year olds”; (ii) “expand the definition of children’s programming covered by the CFBAI to include programs viewed by large numbers of children, not just programs with a high proportion of children”; and (iii) “discontinue advertising in children’s programming viewed by large numbers of children under age 6.” The report also urges media companies to take the lead in setting children’s food advertising standards. “Given the food industry’s apparent reluctance to establish more effective standards to limit unhealthy food advertising to children, media companies could set guidelines that require food and beverage companies (regardless of whether they participate in the CFBAI) to advertise only products that meet meaningful nutrition standards,” it concludes.