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Keywords:

  • Advertising;
  • children;
  • food industry;
  • regulation

Summary

In response to increasing evidence that advertising of foods and beverages affects children's food choices and food intake, several national governments and many of the world's larger food and beverage manufacturers have acted to restrict the marketing of their products to children or to advertise only ‘better for you’ products or ‘healthier dietary choices’ to children. Independent assessment of the impact of these pledges has been difficult due to the different criteria being used in regulatory and self-regulatory regimes. In this paper, we undertook a systematic review to examine the data available on levels of exposure of children to the advertising of less healthy foods since the introduction of the statutory and voluntary codes. The results indicate a sharp division in the evidence, with scientific, peer-reviewed papers showing that high levels of such advertising of less healthy foods continue to be found in several different countries worldwide. In contrast, the evidence provided in industry-sponsored reports indicates a remarkably high adherence to voluntary codes. We conclude that adherence to voluntary codes may not sufficiently reduce the advertising of foods which undermine healthy diets, or reduce children's exposure to this advertising.