The committee concluded that food and beverage marketing influences the diets and health of children and adolescents and that current marketing practices are out of balance with healthful diets. It also concluded that companies and marketers have underutilized the potential to devote creativity and resources to developing and promoting foods, beverages, and meals that support healthful diets. According to the report, achieving healthful diets will require sustained multisectoral and integrated efforts that include industry leadership and initiative. The report also notes that public policy programs and incentives lack the support and authority to address many of the current and emerging marketing practices that influence the diets of children and youth.
The IOM report includes recommendations in nine broad areas related to food marketing and children’s diets. Drawing on two recent articles reviewing progress since the report was released (Kraak et al., 2011, 2012), Wartella reviewed these recommendations and assessed the changes they have inspired.
Products and Promotion
The IOM report recommends that food and beverage companies use creativity, resources, and marketing practices to promote and support more healthful diets and meals for children and youth. This recommendation has led to some product reformulations and new product development, Wartella said. Television advertising for unhealthy products also has been reduced in some areas. Wartella pointed out that questions have been raised, however, about whether product reformulations have led to changes in what is marketed to children and youth.
In addition, restaurants have made limited progress in expanding and promoting healthier meals and providing nutrition information at the point of choice and consumption. A study examining the meal choices of children and adolescents at the 12 largest restaurants in terms of sales and marketing to youth found that only 12 and 15, respectively, of 3,039 possible meal combinations met established nutrition standards for preschoolers and older children (Harris et al., 2010). Meals purchased by adolescents provided an average of 800 to 1,200 calories, 30 percent or more of which came from sugar and saturated fat, and healthy side dishes rarely were offered as a default choice (Harris et al., 2010).