Food and Behaviour Research

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Food and beverage cues in UK and Irish children-television programming

Scully P, Reid O, Macken A, Healy M, Saunders J, Leddin D, Cullen W, Dunne C, O'Gorman CS (2014) Arch Dis Child. pii: archdischild-2013-305430. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2013-305430. [Epub ahead of print]  BMJ online

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Increased time in which children spend watching television is a well-described contributor to paediatric obesity. This study investigated the frequency and type of food and beverage placement in children-specific television broadcasts and compared data from UK (UK) andIrish television stations.


Content analysis, totalling 82.5 h, reflecting 5 weekdays of children-specific television broadcasting on UK and Irish television channels was performed. To allow comparison between UK and Irish food and beverage cues, only broadcasts between 06.00 and 11.30 were analysed. Data were coded separately by two analysts and transferred to SPSS for analyses. Food and beverage cues were coded based on type of product, product placement, product use, motivation, outcome and characters involved.


A total of 1155 food and beverage cues were recorded. Sweet snacks were the most frequent food cue (13.3%), followed by sweets/candy (11.4%). Tea/coffee was the most frequent beverage cue (13.5%), followed by sugar-sweetened beverages (13.0%). The outcome of the cue was positive in 32.6%, negative in 19.8%, and neutral in 47.5% of cases. The most common motivating factor associated with each cue was celebratory/social (25.2%), followed by hunger/thirst (25.0%). Comparison of UK and Irish placements showed both to portray high levels of unhealthy food cues. However, placements for sugar-sweetened beverages were relatively low on both channels.


This study provides further evidence of the prominence of unhealthy foods in children's programming. These data may provide guidance for healthcare professionals, regulators and programme makers in planning for a healthier portrayal of food and beverage in children's television.