Black & Hispanic Kids Targeted With Unhealthy Food Ads

(CN) – The vast majority of food-related TV advertisements aimed at young black and Hispanic consumers promote unhealthy foods, according to a new study.

On TV programming geared towards black audiences, 86 percent of ad spending went toward promoting fast food, sugary drinks and other unhealthy snacks. In Spanish-language programming, 82 percent of the advertisements promoted those kinds of foods, the study published late Monday found.

Advertisers also spend less money to promote healthier food products like water, nuts and fruit, according to the report. In 2017, they spent $195 million on advertising healthy foods – just 3 percent of their total spending.

Between 2013 and 2017, advertisers increased their spending on TV programming aimed at black audiences by more than 50 percent. The researchers also found black teenagers in 2017 saw twice as many ads for unhealthy foods than white teens saw.

“At best, these advertising patterns imply that food companies view black consumers as interested in candy, sugary drinks, fast food, and snacks with a lot of salt, fat or sugar, but not in healthier foods,” said study author Shiriki Kumanyika, the chair of the Council on Black Health at Drexel University.

“Not only are these companies missing out on a marketing opportunity, but they are inadvertently contributing to poor health in black communities by heavily promoting products linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure.”

The researchers looked at advertising from 32 restaurants and food and beverage companies that spent at least $100 million on ads aimed at children and teenagers in 2017.

They then compared the data to a similar study that was conducted in 2013.

“Food companies have introduced healthier products and established corporate responsibility programs to support health and wellness among their customers,” said lead author Jennifer Harris.

“But this study shows that they continue to spend 8 of 10 TV advertising dollars on fast food, candy, sugary drinks, and unhealthy snacks, with even more advertising for these products targeted to black and Hispanic youth.”

The research was conducted by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, Drexel University’s Council on Black Health, and a Salud America!, a program at UT Health San Antonio. 

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