Study: Fast-Food Industry Dishes Up Unhealthy Marketing to Youth

Children as young as age 2 are seeing more fast-food ads than ever before.

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Children as young as age 2 are seeing more fast-food ads than ever before, and restaurants rarely offer parents the healthy kids'-meal choices, according to a new study from Yale's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. The new evaluation, the most comprehensive study of fast-food nutrition and marketing ever conducted, shows that fast-food marketers target children across a variety of media and in restaurants. In addition, the study finds that restaurants provide largely unhealthy defaults for the side dishes and drinks that come with kids' meals. The detailed findings of this study will be presented in Denver during the American Public Health Association's annual meeting. The report's authors studied marketing efforts of 12 of the nation's largest fast-food chains and examined the calories, fat, sugar and sodium in more than 3,000 kids'-meal combinations and 2,781 menu items. Their evaluation of marketing practices revealed that the fast-food industry spent more than $4.2 billion on marketing and advertising in 2009, focusing extensively on television, the Internet, social media sites and mobile applications. "Despite pledges to improve their marketing practices, fast-food companies seem to be stepping up their efforts to target kids," said lead researcher Jennifer L. Harris, Ph.D., M.B.A., director of marketing initiatives at the Rudd Center. "Today preschoolers see 21 percent more fast-food ads on TV than they saw in 2003, and somewhat older children see 34 percent more." Wow, targeting kids and intentionally contributing to obesity is not a good look. Millions of parents, including First Lady Michelle Obama, are not going to be happy to hear about this data.

Read more at Fastfoodmarketing.org.

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