Black Youth Exposed to More Junk Food Ads on TV Than White Youth

A new study by researchers at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut presents evidence that Black children are exposed to more junk food advertisements on television than White children. The research team also found that viewership of junk food advertising increased over a four-year period, even though hours spent watching television remained constant.

Researchers used data from the Nielsen television rating company which breaks down watching habits by age and race. They found that networks targeting Black youth and adolescents had a significantly higher number of ads for candy, fast food outlets, baked goods, and carbonated beverages than other television networks.

The authors estimate that the number of junk food advertisements seen by Black youth rose 30 percent between 2008 and 2012. There was an 18 percent increase for White youth.

Frances Fleming-Milici, a research associate at the Rudd Center and a co-author of the study, notes that “food companies have figured out a way to increase TV advertising to young people even though they aren’t watching more TV.”

Co-author Jennifer Harris, director of marketing initiatives for the Rudd Center and associate professor in allied health sciences at the University of Connecticut, adds that “these results demonstrate limitations in food industry actions to reduce the impact of unhealthy food marketing to children. Food companies must address unhealthy food advertising during all types of programming targeted to children and adolescents, including networks viewed primarily by  Black audiences. These improvements would benefit all children, and help address health disparities affecting Black youth.”

The study, “Television Food Advertising Viewed by Preschoolers, Children and Adolescents: Contributors to Differences in Exposure for Black and White Youth in the United States,” was published on the website of the journal Pediatric Obesity. It may be accessed here.

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