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Two studies conclude children not exposed to more food advertising than in previous decades.

Children do not watch more food commercials on television today than they did at any other point in the last 35 years, according to a study published last week. The research, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, found that adverts for junk food makes up only 3.3 percent of commercials. Furthermore, the study said: "The dramatic increase in childhood obesity rates in the past several decades does not appear to be mirrored by similar changes in food advertising exposure."

Meanwhile, research conducted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also found that children are not being exposed to an increasing number of food adverts on television. According to the FTC report, children are viewing more promotional ads for other programming but fewer paid ads and fewer minutes of advertising on television.

The study looked at television ad exposure for children in the year 2004, comparing this data to similar research from 1977. In particular, the report found that children are not exposed to more food ads on television than they were in the past. However, the report did observe that their ad exposure is more concentrated on children's programming.

According to the report, promotions for television programming accounted for 28 percent of all TV ads viewed, while food ads accounted for 22 percent. Children get approximately half of their food advertising and about one-third of their total television advertising exposure from programs in which children are at least 50% of the audience, the research found.

The FTC is also conducting a separate study on all methods of marketing foods and beverages to children and adolescents, which will include research into the types of food marketed; the types of marketing techniques used; the amount spent on marketing; the nature of marketing activities; and any marketing policies, initiatives, or research undertaken by food and beverage companies.

The research has been welcomed by consumer group the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). J. Justin Wilson, senior research analyst at the CCF, commented: "Food commercials have been around since Dick Tracy sold kids on Ovaltine. It's only recently that we've seen such a dramatic increase in childhood obesity. Activists don't realize that ads don't actually make kids cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs." Wilson continued: "These studies suggest that the hype about TV commercials is diverting attention from the real cause of childhood obesity: physical inactivity."
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Date:Jun 11, 2007
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