To document socio-economic differences in exposure to food advertising, including advertisements for foods high in fat, salt and sugar (HFSS) as defined by the UK Food Standards Agency's Nutrient Profiling Model.
A cross-sectional survey. Information (including product advertised and viewing figures) on all advertisements broadcast in one UK region over one week (6–12 July 2009) was obtained. Food advertisements were identified and linked to nutritional information on the content of advertised foods.
UK Tyne-Tees television region.
Data were sourced from a UK-wide television viewing panel.
Eleven per cent of advertising seen was for food and 63 % of food advertising seen was for HFSS foods. The proportion of all advertising seen that was for food was smaller among viewers in the least v. most affluent social grade (OR = 0·98, 99 % CI 0·95, 1·00). There was no difference in the proportion of food advertising seen that was for HFSS food between viewers in the most and least affluent social grades. Total exposure to both all food advertising and HFSS food advertising was 2·1 times greater among the least v. the most affluent viewers.
While the least affluent viewers saw relatively fewer food advertisements, their absolute exposure to all food and HFSS food advertisements was higher than that of the most affluent viewers. Current UK restrictions prohibit advertisements for HFSS foods during programmes with a high proportion of child viewers. Extending these to all programming may reduce socio-economic inequalities in exposure to these advertisements and in diet and obesity.
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