Junk Food Ads Target Black Children, New Study Shows

junk food ads
iStock/Dean Mitchell

Black and Latino children are more than twice as likely as white children to be exposed to junk food ads, according to a new study by the University of Connecticut’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

Study authors believe that there may be a link between these marketing techniques and the prevalence of obesity and obesity-related diseases amongst black populations in the United States; Frances Fleming Milici, a research associate for the study, told the Washington Post, that the ads are “placed to reach a certain demographic,” including channels that are more likely to be popular amongst black children, such as Fuse, BET, Vh1, and Nick-at-Nite; and Jennifer Harris, a lead researcher in the study, told RT that “black and Latino kids have higher rates of obesity and other diet-related diseases.”

The study noted that 20 percent of black children in the United States are now considered obese, as compared to 14.7 percent of their white counterparts.

The study authors noted that it was the responsibility of such networks to reduce junk food ads on their channels, writing: “Food advertisers and networks, especially those targeting adolescents and black youth, must do more to reduce advertising that negatively impacts young people’s health. Furthermore, reducing commercial-television viewing by black youth may help reduce health disparities affecting their communities.”

The gap between the number of ads for unhealthy food seen by black children and their white counterparts is widest in children 12 to 17 years old, with black children seeing 24.2 junk food ads per week on average, as compared to 14.8 for white children.

Companies spend about $1.8 billion marketing junk food directly to kids in the United States every year. Only about one out of every ten youth-oriented food ads is for a healthy food, according to the Obesity Action Coalition, a nonprofit advocacy group.

The study results come from analysis of Nielsen data collected between 2008 and 2012.

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Emily Monaco is a food and culture writer based in Paris. Her work has been featured in the Wall... More about Emily Monaco