Consistency of Nutrition Recommendations for Foods Marketed to Children in the United States, 2009–2010
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Consistency of Nutrition Recommendations for Foods Marketed to Children in the United States, 2009–2010

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  • Alternative Title:
    Prev Chronic Dis
  • Description:

    Food marketing has emerged as an environmental factor that shapes children’s dietary behaviors. “Advergames,” or free online games designed to promote branded products, are an example of evolving food marketing tactics aimed at children. Our primary objective was to classify foods marketed to children (aged 2–11 y) in advergames as those meeting or not meeting nutrition recommendations of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and the Institute of Medicine (IOM). We document the consistency of classification of those foods across agency guidelines and offer policy recommendations.


    We used comScore Media Builder Metrix to identify 143 websites that marketed foods (n = 439) to children aged 2 to 11 years through advergames. Foods were classified on the basis of each of the 4 agency criteria. Food nutrient labels provided information on serving size, calories, micronutrients, and macronutrients.


    The websites advertised 254 meals, 101 snacks, and 84 beverages. Proportions of meals and snacks meeting USDA and FDA recommendations were similarly low, with the exception of saturated fat in meals and sodium content in snacks. Inconsistency in recommendations was evidenced by only a small proportion of meals and fewer snacks meeting the recommendations of all the agencies per their guidelines. Beverage recommendations were also inconsistent across the 3 agencies that provide recommendations (USDA, IOM, and CSPI). Most (65%–95%) beverages advertised in advergames did not meet some of these recommendations.


    Our findings indicate that a large number of foods with low nutritional value are being marketed to children via advergames. A standardized system of food marketing guidance is needed to better inform the public about healthfulness of foods advertised to children.

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