Black Children and Teens Exposed to Most Junk Food Advertising: Study

Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Scott Barbour/Getty Images

All American kids see junk food ads, but preschoolers (2 to 5 years old), children (6 to 11 years) and teens (12 to 17 years) of color see more ads per week on average than their white peers, according to a new study.


The Washington Post reports that a recently released study on junk food ads suggests that fast food chains, soda-makers and snack vendors are increasingly targeting black teens and  younger children.

This is a real issue because according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly half of all black adults are obese, as are 20 percent of African-American kids.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity and published Thursday in the journal Pediatric Obesity, analyzed Nielsen data from 2008 to 2012 to compare food-ad viewing rates. It found that black children are exposed to more junk food advertising than white kids are—as much as 50 percent more, in fact, among teens.

Interestingly, while researchers have long assumed that the disparity sprung from the fact that black kids consume more TV, the study suggests that the gap also has a great deal to do with the types of television black kids watch—and marketers’ ability to target them on those specific networks.

The Post reports that compared with their white peers, black children spend far more time watching “youth-targeted” and “black-targeted” networks, such as Fuse, Nick-at-Nite, BET and VH1. These are also the networks, researchers found, that air the most food advertisements.

Multiple trials have found a clear link between a child’s preference for unhealthy foods and exposure to unhealthy food marketing. In fact, the Obesity Action Coalition estimates that 9 of every 10 youth-targeted food ads are for sugary drinks, cereals, sweets, snacks and fast foods.


The World Health Organization recommends that governments take regulatory action to protect kids from junk food ads, and has even suggested that the definition of “kids” extend to age 16.

In the U.S., the matter is left entirely to the food industry, whose main objective is to sell its products—which leaves the onus on parents and the community.


Read more at the Washington Post.