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Child-targeted fast-food television advertising exposure is linked with fast-food intake among pre-school children

  • Madeline A Dalton (a1) (a2) (a3), Meghan R Longacre (a1), Keith M Drake (a2) (a4), Lauren P Cleveland (a1), Jennifer L Harris (a5), Kristy Hendricks (a1) and Linda J Titus (a1) (a3) (a6)...
Abstract Objective

To determine whether exposure to child-targeted fast-food (FF) television (TV) advertising is associated with children’s FF intake in a non-experimental setting.


Cross-sectional survey conducted April–December 2013. Parents reported their pre-school child’s TV viewing time, channels watched and past-week FF consumption. Responses were combined with a list of FF commercials (ads) aired on children’s TV channels during the same period to calculate children’s exposure to child-targeted TV ads for the following chain FF restaurants: McDonald’s, Subway and Wendy’s (MSW).


Paediatric and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) clinics in New Hampshire, USA.


Parents (n 548) with a child of pre-school age.


Children’s mean age was 4·4 years; 43·2 % ate MSW in the past week. Among the 40·8 % exposed to MSW ads, 23·3 % had low, 34·2 % moderate and 42·5 % high exposure. McDonald’s accounted for over 70 % of children’s MSW ad exposure and consumption. Children’s MSW consumption was significantly associated with their ad exposure, but not overall TV viewing time. After adjusting for demographics, socio-economic status and other screen time, moderate MSW ad exposure was associated with a 31 % (95 % CI 1·12, 1·53) increase and high MSW ad exposure with a 26 % (95 % CI 1·13, 1·41) increase in the likelihood of consuming MSW in the past week. Further adjustment for parent FF consumption did not change the findings substantially.


Exposure to child-targeted FF TV advertising is positively associated with FF consumption among children of pre-school age, highlighting the vulnerability of young children to persuasive advertising and supporting recommendations to limit child-directed FF marketing.

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