Branded food references in children’s magazines: ‘advertisements’ are the tip of the iceberg.
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OBJECTIVE: While children’s magazines ‘blur the lines’ between editorial content and advertising, this medium has escaped the calls for government restrictions that are currently associated with food advertisements aired during children’s television programming. The aim of this study was to address significant gaps in the evidence base in relation to commercial food messages in children’s magazines by systematically investigating the nature and extent of food advertising and promotions over a 12-month period.
METHOD: All issues of Australian children’s magazines published in the calendar year 2009 were examined for references to foods or beverages.
RESULTS: Approximately 16% of the 1678 food references identified were portrayals of branded food products (or food brands). However, only 83 of these 269 were clearly identified as advertisements. Of these 269 branded food references, 86% were for non-core (broadly, less healthy) foods, including all but seven of the advertisements.
CONCLUSIONS: It appears that recent reductions in televised promotions for non-core foods, and industry initiatives to reduce the targeting of children, have not carried through to magazine advertising. This study adds to the evidence base that the marketing of unhealthy food to children is widespread, and often covert, and supports public health calls for the strengthening of advertising regulation.