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Television food advertising to children: the extent and nature of exposure

  • Bridget Kelly (a1), Ben Smith (a1), Lesley King (a2), Victoria Flood (a3) and Adrian Bauman (a1)...



To describe the pattern and prevalence of food and drink advertisements to children on commercial television in Sydney, Australia, and compare these with advertising regulations set out in the Children's Television Standards and results from a similar study in 2002.


Data were collected by recording television from 06.00 hours until 23.00 hours on all three commercial channels from Sunday 14 May 2006 to Saturday 20 May 2006 (357 h). The study analysed advertisements in two children's viewing periods, one as defined in the 2002 study and the other according to current standards. Food advertisements were coded using 18 food categories and were analysed by time period and popular children's programmes.


Food advertisements occurred in similar proportions during children's viewing hours and adult's viewing hours (25.5 vs. 26.9% of all advertisements, respectively), although there was a higher rate of high-fat/high-sugar food advertisements during children's viewing hours (49 vs. 39% of all food advertisements, P < 0.001). There were even more advertisements for high-fat/high-sugar foods during popular children's programmes, contributing to 65.9% of all food advertisements. Estimates of exposure indicate that children aged 5–12 years were exposed to 96 food advertisements, including 63 high-fat/high-sugar advertisements per week. Since 2002, there has been a reduction in overall food and high-fat/high-sugar food advertisements.


Despite reductions in overall levels of food advertising, children continue to experience high levels of exposure to food advertisements, which remain skewed towards unhealthy foods. Further food advertising regulation should be required to curtail the current levels of advertising of high-fat/high-sugar foods to children, to make them commensurate with recommended levels of consumption.


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