any finding about a causal relationship from television advertising to adiposity. It is important to note that even a small influence, aggregated over the entire population of American children and youth, would be consequential in impact.
Most children ages 8 years and under do not effectively comprehend the persuasive intent of marketing messages, and most children ages 4 years and under cannot consistently discriminate between television advertising and programming. The evidence is currently insufficient to determine whether or not this meaningfully alters the ways in which food and beverage marketing messages influence children.
New research is needed on food and beverage marketing and its impact on diet and diet-related health and on improving measurement strategies for factors involved centrally in this research. Much of this research must be interdisciplinary and fairly large-scale in nature, although some highly-focused small-scale research is also desirable. Among the specific research needed are studies of newer promotion techniques, newer venues, and healthier products and portion sizes.
Various public policies and actions at the federal, state, and local levels have been considered, implemented, or are in process to help improve the diets of children and youth. The committee reviewed efforts by government at the federal, state, and local levels to improve education and information to better inform the nutritional choices for children and youth; initiatives to enhance the influence that schools have on the nutritional status of students and their families; and the potential of social marketing as a means of improving dietary patterns and practices. It also surveyed the legal context for policies and regulations related to advertising and marketing. This review in Chapter 6 found a number of opportunities for improvement.
A number of positive steps have been taken by the Food and Drug Administration to improve food and beverage labeling as a means of conveying helpful information to enable healthier choices, including exploration of ways to expand the provision of such information on menus and packaging in quick serve and full serve family restaurants. Still, the reach and effectiveness of such efforts—by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), industry, and the two together—are far short of what they could or should be to provide children, youth, and their parents with the information they need, using consistent standards and graphics that are easily understood and engaging.