December 2017 Newsletter

Rudd Center Recent Publications

Preschoolers Still See TV Food Commercials Even Though Companies Promised Not to Direct Their Advertising to Children Under 6

Preschool children ages 2 to 5 continue to view TV ads for foods and beverages daily, revealing a loophole in major food companies' pledges that they will not direct any advertising to children under 6, according to a new study by the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut.

The study, published in the journal Appetite, also showed that the advertisements appeal to children under 6 as much as they appeal to older children (ages 6-11) who companies say they are directing their ads towards. In addition, preschoolers were less likely to have tried the advertised products before seeing the ads, which research has shown makes them more susceptible to the influence of these ads.

"Our new research findings demonstrate that preschool-age children frequently view TV food ads and are likely highly influenced by ads that food and beverage companies have pledged to protect them from," said Jennifer Harris, Director of Marketing Initiatives at the Rudd Center and lead author of the study.

Child development experts have concluded that advertising to children under 6 is unfair as they do not have the cognitive ability to distinguish advertising from other types of information and thus cannot counteract its influence. As a result, they recommend that preschool-age children should be protected from advertising in any form.

Rudd Center in the News

HealthDay featured our study showing that children under 6 are still seeing TV ads for foods and beverages in a Dec. 15 article: Think Little Kids Are Safe From Food Ads? Think Again. The piece was picked up by several other health-related media outlets, including Doctors Lounge, MedicineNet and MedlinePlus, which has a potential audience of nine million.

UConn Today and the Hearst CT newspapers also carried a piece about our study of TV advertising and young children.

The Washington Post featured comments from UConn Rudd Center Director Marlene Schwartz in a Dec. 5 article: Food-makers are taking salt and sugar out of food. But they’re adding fat.

Our study showing food swamps are better predictors of obesity rates than food deserts was highlighted in a Dec. 28 article in The Atlantic: Food Swamps Are the New Food Deserts.

The recent American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement on weight stigma, co-authored by UConn Rudd Center Deputy Director Rebecca Puhl, was the subject of reports by PopSugar, KUSA 9 - NBC TV, in Denver, CO, and WEAU 13 - NBC TV, in Eau Claire, WI.

Moneyish, an independent news platform within Dow Jones Media Group, highlighted comments by Dr. Puhl in a Dec. 11 article: Only 15% of hiring managers would consider hiring an overweight woman.

Our image gallery featuring non-biased portrayals of individuals with obesity was featured in a Dec. 7 Health News Review article: How to communicate about obesity without promoting stigma.

Jennifer Harris, UConn Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, and Bettina Elias Siegel, who blogs about children and food policy at The Lunch Tray, published an opinion piece based on our FACTS 2017 report - on Medium and The Lunch Tray: Food Marketing: Still Serving Our Kids Unhealthy Options

What's Simmering With Our Friends

New book "reveals the hidden mental processes that secretly govern every aspect of our behavior"

Before You Know It - The Unconscious Reasons We Do What We Do, by Dr. John Bargh, explores his research into "how the unconscious guides our actions, goals, and motivations in areas like race relations, parenting, business, consumer behavior and addiction." Bargh was PhD advisor to Jennifer Harris, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives, and his book cites her dissertation study and our Center:

"We showed the power of ads on eating behavior in a study led by Jennifer Harris of the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity." He describes two studies in which adults as well as children watched a TV show that was edited to include food ads or not. Both children and adults ate considerably more snacks when there were food ads in the show. "Food ads, then, act like unconscious behavioral suggestions and can influence our eating and other consumption, especially if we are not aware of their power over us," he concludes.

Bargh is the James Rowland Angell Professor of Psychology at Yale University. The book was published in October.

2017 Voices for Healthy Kids Progress Report

Voices for Healthy Kids, a joint initiative of the American Heart Association and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has released Making Each Day Healthier for All Children: 2017 Progress Report. The report highlights progress in the advocacy movement, including policy wins and a behind-the-scenes look at campaigns to increase health equity, improve access to healthy foods and physical activity, and improve the places where families live, learn, work, and play.

News to Chew On
Changing the price of certain foods could save thousands of lives each year
Children 'bombarded by junk food' ads on family shows
The big Washington food fight
The New York Times
Snickers Owner to Invest in Kind, Third-Biggest Maker of Snack Bars
The Chronicle of Philanthropy
Fight Hunger by Fighting Poverty and Powerlessness
The Conversation
Developing countries could get sick before they get rich. Policy can help
Food Tank
Food is Killing More Americans than Anything Else. Why Can't Doctors Stop It?
Medical News Today
Kids' movies promote poor diet and stigmatize obesity
The New York Times
A Nasty, Nafta-Related Surprise: Mexico's Soaring Obesity