Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
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Rudd Radar

Hispanic Youths’ Exposure to Food Advertising on Spanish- and English-Language TV

June 17, 2013

Researchers at the Rudd Center have quantified the number of food and beverage ads viewed by Hispanic youth on both Spanish- and English-language television. Regardless of language, the majority of ads promote nutritionally poor products, such as fast food, sugary cereals, and candy. The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics, and is the first of its kind.

Using data obtained from Nielsen, a media research company, researchers examined advertising viewed by Hispanic and non-Hispanic youth in 2010. On average, both Hispanic and non-Hispanic youth saw 12-15 television food ads every day and most of the ads were for fast food, breakfast cereals, restaurants and candy. For Hispanic youth, 75 percent or more of these ads appeared on English-language television. Despite watching similar amounts of television, Hispanic youth viewed fewer food and beverage ads than their non-Hispanic peers because those ads appear less frequently on Spanish-language television.

Of special concern, Hispanic preschoolers watched 24 more minutes of television per day than their non-Hispanic peers, and those who spoke only Spanish watched more than 4 hours per day. These young viewers were exposed to a significant number of ads for fast food shown on Spanish-language television.

Much of the advertising viewed by Hispanic children was for food products and for restaurants that are not approved for advertising to children by the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Companies participating in the CFBAI voluntarily pledge to advertise only healthier dietary choices during children’s television programs.

Previous studies have shown that exposure to large numbers of television advertisements for unhealthy foods and beverages contribute to poor diet among youth. Given higher rates of obesity and overweight among Hispanic youth and recent introductions of new media and marketing campaigns targeted to bilingual youth, the authors noted the importance of continued monitoring of food and beverage marketing to Hispanic youth. 

The paper was co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Frances Fleming-Milici, PhD, Research Associate; Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Director of Marketing Initiatives; Vishnudas Sarda, MBBS, MPH, former Biostatistician; and Marlene Schwartz, PhD, Acting Director.