Kids' Cereal Advertising Still a Problem

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Big Kids

Companies need to revise how they market products to children, according to the report. Credit: ohdearbarb, Flickr

Food companies have agreed to limit the amount of junk food advertising they aim at kids, but that doesn't mean they've stopped.

A study by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity found that cereals marketed to children have 85 percent more sugar, 65 percent less fiber and 60 percent more sodium than cereals advertised to adults, according to a report in the Chicago Tribune.

The study was released as cereal makers try to burnish their images with parents. In December, General Mills announced it was continuing to lower sugar in cereals aimed at kids, and said any of the brand's cereals could be a part of a healthy breakfast because they contain vitamins and whole grains. The Yale study agrees food companies are lowering sugar, but says advertising is a problem.

"When we looked at the nutritional quality of the cereal, we realized it's not just that companies are marketing unhealthy products to children," Jennifer Harris, lead author of the Yale study, tells the Tribune. "It's that they are only marketing unhealthy products."

Food companies lavish advertising dollars on cereal aimed at children, and, in 2008, spent more than $156 million on it, the largest amount for any packaged food, according to the report.

Many of the foods geared toward kids are being modified: Along with General Mills, Campbell Soup says it will be lowering the salt in SpaghettiOs by 35 percent.

But the Yale study is still concerned with the aggressive marketing toward children and found that while advertising during preschool shows has improved, that age group still sees ads aimed at older kids when they watch TV with older children. The filter for children with advertising is not there, and kids do not distinguish the sales pitch.

"When watching television, children learn that calorie dense foods that are high in fat and sugar taste great and are extremely rewarding to consume," according to the Yale study.

Related: Healthy Breakfast Cereal

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