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The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/s12889-015-2275-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors. The authors declare that they have no competing interests
BM and AW conceived the study. AW and BM analyzed the data. AW and EMH contributed to the collection and coding of the data. All authors critically reviewed various drafts of the manuscript; all authors approved the final version. JSK is responsible for the integrity of the work as a whole.
Research showed that food marketing for children frequently contradicts national dietary guidelines. Children, unlike adults, are not able to understand the persuasiveness of the advertisements with its short- and long-term effects on health, thus the common international tenor is to restrict food marketing. In the European Union, marketing restriction based on self-regulation have been initiated (EU Pledge Nutrition Criteria). The study aims contribute to depict the status quo of television advertisement targeted at children before the pledged initiative came into full effect.
In this study we analyze the quality and displaying frequency of a set of advertisements targeted at children broadcasted on Austrian television. Promoted food products targeted at children or adults were identified. Category-based analysis of the displayed food was performed based on the Austrian Nutrition guidelines (number of displayed food per food category). The children’s food content was analyzed according to the newly established nutritional quality criteria for advertised food in the EU to assess the nutritional quality of the depicted food.
In total, 360 h of video material was recorded in February and March 2014. A set of 1919 food advertisements, with 15.1 % targeted at children were broadcasted. Of all food advertisements targeted at children, 92.4 % was for fatty, sweet and salty snacks, while no advertisements for vegetables, legumes or fruits were shown. From all food advertisements for children, 65.9 % originated from participating companies of the EU Pledge Nutrition Criteria. Further analysis revealed that 95.9 % of the advertised food for children showed at least one aspect of nonconformity with the EU Pledge Nutrition Criteria; on the contrary 64.7 % of the displayed food advertisement also featured at least one desirable food component (e.g. high fibre content, high protein content).
The present research suggests that the majority of advertised food for children do not conform with the pledged criteria as defined in the EU Pledge Nutrition Criteria and almost all advertisements would be prohibited. We discuss our findings in the context of public health nutrition and present a perspective for future directions in this important field of research.