How does food advertising affect children?

Children see 15 unhealthy food ads a day

The results are frightening: 70 percent of the food commercials examined on television are aimed specifically at children due to their presentation or broadcasting environment. 89 percent of all TV spots advertise unhealthy products. The number of spots seen by children per day has remained about the same since 2007. But children watch TV 30 minutes less today. This means that 29 percent more unhealthy spots are broadcast per hour than before. "The companies have deliberately increased the advertising pressure on children," criticized Dr. med. Sigrid Peter, pediatrician in Berlin and deputy chairwoman of the professional association of paediatricians (BVJK). "We see the harmful health consequences of this every day in our practices. We finally have to address the causes of obesity in children - and advertising is an important factor in this."

On the Internet, children are mainly reached via Facebook with advertising postings about unhealthy products - over ten billion times a year in Germany. In addition, the companies specifically attract children to their websites for unhealthy products and try to keep them there for a long time through games or the like. On YouTube, two-thirds of the advertising for unhealthy things with child marketing is carried out by influencers.

"Our children are encouraged by the industry to eat more sugar, salt and fat more than 15 times a day," criticizes Professor Dr. Hans Hauner, head of the Else Kröner-Fresenius-Center for Nutritional Medicine at the Technical University of Munich and Chairman of the German Diabetes Foundation (DDS). "This destroys all efforts to educate people about healthy eating and must no longer be tolerated. These advertising activities in digital media are increasing rapidly and are particularly effective." Especially since there is evidence that advertising can even have a stronger effect than a good role model for parents.

"The study shows again that the food industry is evidently not expected to assume responsibility or support," says Dr. Kai Kolpatzik, head of the prevention department at the AOK Federal Association. "It is therefore high time to make this sector responsible. Because voluntary self-commitments, regardless of whether in the context of the national reduction strategy or the advertising ban for children's food, have so far been in vain." The German Alliance for Noncommunicable Diseases (DANK) is also calling for a legally anchored advertising ban: "Diet-related diseases have also shown themselves to be fatal risk factors for severe disease and death in Covid-19," says DANK spokeswoman Barbara Bitzer. "Many deaths could have been prevented if politicians had taken action against obesity earlier. Therefore, an advertising ban is now more than overdue."

The study was funded by the German Noncommunicable Diseases Alliance (DANK), the AOK Federal Association and six medical societies and organizations.

(Joint press release of the German Noncommunicable Diseases Alliance (DANK) and the AOK Federal Association)

To the long version of the study