Food Ads Not to Blame for US Childhood Obesity Says FTC

18 July 2005

Although the waistlines of America's children have expanded significantly over the last thirty years, food marketing does not appear to be the cause according to a report by the Federal Trade Commission.

The findings, presented last week at the FTC's workshop on marketing, self-regulation and childhood obesity in Washington, reveal that the number of ads for food or fast food watched by the 2-11 years age group decreased by 33% from 4,100 in 1977 to 2,724 in 2004.

And the number of minutes of commercial time viewed by children has also fallen, although the study failed to examine the use of other advertising media such as online and package promotions. The research methods also differed for the two years under analysis, drawing on FTC statistics from 1977 and Nielsen Media data for 2004.

Marketers were, however, quick to absolve themselves of any blame for the rise in childhood obesity, which has more than doubled since 1970. 'Advertising is not the culprit, but lack of exercise and moderation in the diet are' said American Advertising Federation president Wally Synder.

William Dietz, divisional director of nutrition and physical activity at the Centers for Disease Control, believes the total amount of TV viewing by children rather than food ads themselves is a contributing factor to levels of obesity.

For more information about the marketing, self-regulation and childhood obesity workshop click here.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff