Food and Behaviour Research

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Review Of Research On The Effects Of Food Promotion To Children

Hastings G, Stead M, McDermott L, Forsyth A, MacKintosh AM, Rayner M, Godfrey C, Caraher M, Angus K (2003) http://tna.europarchive.org2/0110116113217/ http:/    

Web URL: Read the pdf report here


The Food Standards Agency commissioned this review to examine what, if any, research evidence there is that food promotion can influence the food-related knowledge, preferences and behaviour of children. This is an extremely contentious issue and as a consequence great care has been taken to adopt rigorous objective and replicable procedures. Specifically, for the key review questions a ‘systematic’ approach was adopted.

The review is structured in two parts. Part 1 sets the context by examining the nature of advertising and promotion and the effects it can have. It also briefly examines the promotion to children of two non-food products, tobacco and alcohol, that have been the subject of equivalent debates about cause and effect. Part 2 contains the main and systematic components of the review, the first examining the extent and nature of food promotion to children, and the second the evidence on whether or not this affects their food knowledge, preferences and behaviour

Conclusions This first UK systematic review of the research literature shows that: 1. There is a lot of food advertising to children. 2. The advertised diet is less healthy than the recommended one. 3. Children enjoy and engage with food promotion. 4. Food promotion is having an effect, particularly on children’s preferences, purchase behaviour and consumption. 5. This effect is independent of other factors and operates at both a brand and category level. This does not amount to proof of an effect, but in our view does provide sufficient evidence to conclude that an effect exists. The debate should now shift to what action is needed, and specifically to how the power of commercial marketing can be used to bring about improvements in young people’s eating.