Be Our Voice Blog

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

Fast Food Marketing and Children

Posted by: Erin Ellingwood


Last week, the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at Yale University released a new report entitled Fast Food F.A.C.T.S. (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score). The Center found that children as young as 2 are seeing more fast-food ads than ever before, and that restaurants provide largely unhealthy side dishes and drinks as the default options that come with kids’ meals. The new report is the most comprehensive study of fast food nutrition and marketing ever undertaken.

Researchers examined the marketing efforts of 12 of the nation’s largest fast-food chains. Additional data included the calories, fat, sugar and sodium in more than 3,000 kids’ meal combinations and 2,781 menu items. Perhaps the most disturbing finding, indicative of the disheartening nature of the overall report, is that “out of 3,039 possible kids’ meal combinations, only 12 meet the researchers’ nutrition criteria for preschoolers” and “only 15 meet nutrition criteria for older children.” That breaks down to only 0.39% and 0.49% of kids’ meal combinations for each respective age group. 

Any healthcare professional could tell that the fast food climate being pushed in today’s market was unhealthy for our children. But the Rudd Center’s report shows just how detrimental fast food and marketing is—and it’s far beyond anything people expected.

However, hope is not lost. In the words of RWJ President and CEO Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, “Parents should demand the healthy items in kids’ meals—like apple slices and low-fat milk—and they should let fast-food companies know they don’t want them using games, toys and popular characters to lure their children toward unhealthy habits. In the words of one fast-food slogan, let the fast food companies know that you want to ‘have it your way.’”  The report authors also offer practical recommendations for transforming the restaurant and marketing landscapes. The Rudd Center’s findings may be alarming, but hopefully this report will serve as a call to action for both the healthcare and fast food industries alike.

Fast Food FACTS (full report):

Fast Food FACTS (summary):

A Statement by Risa Lavizzo-Mourey on Fast Food FACTS:

General Childhood Obesity  Obesity Resources  Healthy Kids 


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