Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity
The Rudd Center Health Digest

January 2013

FTC Updates Report on Food Marketing to Children

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released a report entitled “A Review of Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents,” which shows that food and beverage companies spent slightly less on marketing targeted to children in 2009 than they did in 2006, and very small improvements were made to the nutritional quality of the food and beverages marketed to youth during that period. Food companies spent $1.8 billion to advertise to children ages 2 to 17 in 2009, down from $2.1 billion in 2006.

The report updated the FTC’s 2008 publication “Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation,” which documented the amount food companies spent on marketing targeted to youth in 2006.

The reduction can be attributed to a decline in advertising in traditional media such as TV, radio, and print; however, food companies increased their youth-targeted spending on other forms of marketing, including websites, internet advertising, viral/word-of-mouth marketing, product placements, movie and video ads, cross-promotion licenses, celebrity endorsements, events, and philanthropy. In addition, spending on food marketing to tweens and teens increased between 2006 and 2009.

“While there’s been progress in advertising to children ages 2 to 11 in traditional media, children continue to see too many ads for products of questionable nutritional quality,” said Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives. “Companies have also shifted much of their spending toward a somewhat older child audience, including 12- to 14-year-olds, and into newer forms of marketing.”

“Industry has faced public and legal pressure as well as pressure from health experts to improve their practices,” said Kelly Brownell, PhD, Rudd Center Director. “The voluntary changes they made are only modest and they have stepped up marketing in some arenas. The pressure on industry to do more must continue.”

The FTC’s report was conducted as part of a Congressional inquiry into rising childhood obesity rates, and aims to help public health experts, parents, and lawmakers understand the extent of food marketing to children.

Rudd Center Spring Seminar Series Begins Jan. 15

Each semester the Rudd Center hosts experts in academics, advocacy, and public policy to discuss their work and its implications for the study of obesity, food policy, and weight bias.

The Spring 2013 Seminar Series will include Dan Harris, ABC News Anchor and Correspondent, and Glenn E. Schneider, MPH, and Nikki Highsmith Vernick, MPA, from the Horizon Foundation, which recently launched Howard County Unsweetened, a Maryland campaign aimed at helping parents and students reduce their sugar-sweetened beverage consumption.

The series will begin on January 15 featuring Jane Martin, MPH, Executive Manager of Alcohol and Obesity Policy at Cancer Council Victoria (Australia). Unless otherwise noted, seminars are held at the Rudd Center, and are free and open to the public, with limited seating.

FTC Strengthens Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has amended the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which aims to prevent companies from exploiting online information about children under age 13. COPPA rules were established in 2000, but since then there have been significant changes in the online and mobile worlds.

COPPA will now require companies to get permission from parents to collect information about their child, including photographs, videos, and geo-locational information — all content that social media, online games, and mobile devices have made easy to share. The amendments to the law will go into effect July 1, 2013. 

“The amendments will prevent children’s sites like,, and from tracking what kids do online to target them with personalized ads,” said Jennifer Harris, PhD, MBA, Rudd Center Director of Marketing Initiatives. “Junk food advertisers, particularly for sugary cereals and fast food, are notorious for reaching and targeting children online, but now parents, rather than the companies, have control over what information is collected about their children.”

Just Published

Body Weight and Gender Influence Judgment in the Courtroom

In a study that gives insight into the depth of stigmatization of overweight and obese people, researchers at the Rudd Center found that weight stigma extends to the courtroom. Published online in the International Journal of Obesity, the study shows that a defendant’s body weight and gender impact jurors’ perceptions of guilt and responsibility.

Researchers conducted an online experimental study with 471 adult participants. They were presented with a mock court case, including images of alleged defendants. Participants viewed one of four defendant images: a lean male, a lean female, an obese male, or an obese female. After viewing the image, participants were then asked to rate how guilty they thought the defendant was.

Male participants rated the obese female defendant guiltier than the lean female defendant, whereas female respondents judged the two female defendants equally regardless of weight. Among all participants, there were no differences in assessment of guilt between the obese male and lean male defendants.

Only the obese female defendant was penalized for her weight, a finding that is consistent with research published in the past 20 years that shows that obese females face more weight-related stigma than obese males.

“According to research previously conducted at the Rudd Center, the prevalence of weight-based stigmatization is now on par with rates of racial discrimination, and has been documented across multiple domains, including employment, medical, and interpersonal settings,” said Natasha Schvey, lead author of the study. “The present study identifies yet another setting in which obese persons are vulnerable to bias and discrimination.”

The authors said that these findings demonstrate the depth of weight stigma and a crucial need to extend weight bias reduction efforts to the legal setting.

The paper was co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Natasha Schvey, MS, MPhil, Yale graduate student; Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives; Kelly Brownell, PhD, Director; and Katherine Levandoski, Yale undergraduate student.

Youth Seeking Weight Loss Treatment Report Bullying by Those They Trust

Even as adolescents struggle to lose weight through treatment programs, they often continue to experience weight-based discrimination – not just from their peers, but from adults they trust, including parents and teachers, according to a recent study by the Rudd Center. The study, which appears online in Pediatrics, is the first comprehensive examination of how weight-based victimization impacts youth seeking weight-loss treatment.

Researchers conducted a survey of 361 adolescents enrolled in two national weight-loss camps, and asked them about the nature and extent of victimization they had experienced because of their weight. They found that the majority of adolescents reported they were teased and bullied most at school, with reports of victimization highest among those who were the heaviest. Most adolescents reported being victimized for over a year, and some said they were teased and bullied for five years or more. For some, the victimization continued even after losing weight.

Although peers and friends were the most commonly reported perpetrators of teasing and bullying, high percentages of adolescents also reported being teased and bullied about their weight by trusted adults, including physical education teachers and sports coaches (42 percent), parents (37 percent), and classroom teachers (27 percent). Weight-based victimization was most frequently experienced as verbal teasing, followed by relational victimization (being ignored and excluded by peers), cyber-bullying, and physical aggression.

The paper was co-authored by the Rudd Center’s Rebecca Puhl, PhD, Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives; Joerg Luedicke, MA, Statistical Consultant; and Jamie Lee Peterson, MA, former Research Associate.

Youth and Food Policy Resources

Youth advocacy in food policy is a growing movement in which young people work toward preventing and reversing obesity and increasing food equity through community involvement and policy advocacy. The Rudd Center website now includes a section about youth and food policy, including internship and political action opportunities, as well as  links to youth groups.

Rudd Center Spotlight: Jane Martin, MPH


Jane Martin, MPH, Executive Manager of Alcohol and Obesity Policy at Cancer Council Victoria (Australia) and Executive Manager of the Obesity Policy Coalition (OPC), will present Obesity Prevention Policy in Australia – Perspectives from the Land Downunder on January 15 as part of the Rudd Center’s Spring Seminar Series.

OPC is a partnership of Cancer Council Victoria, Diabetes Australia Victoria, the Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, and the WHO Collaborating Centre for Obesity Prevention at Deakin University. In her role at OPC, Martin advocates policy and regulatory reform to prevent overweight and obesity, with a focus on food marketing, labeling, and taxes and other pricing measures. OPC has won two advocacy awards for its work on traffic light labeling and a blueprint to reduce exposure of children to unhealthy food marketing.

Martin has worked for over 25 years in public health advocacy, first in tobacco control, then in obesity prevention. She has published a number of book chapters and papers on tobacco control and obesity prevention policy, and is active in the media and with other related advocacy initiatives. She is a member of the Expert Committee on Obesity for the Australian Government’s National Preventative Health Agency and the National Advisory Group for the Parents Jury, Chair of the Public Health Sub-Committee of the Australia New Zealand Obesity Society, and is on the Board of Family Planning Victoria.

Martin is a recipient of The Jack Brockhoff Foundation Churchill Fellowship, which enables her to study the advocacy strategies that will encourage the Australian government to adopt evidence-based obesity prevention policies. As part of the fellowship she is travelling to the United Kingdom and United States through February 2013.

New Rudd ‘Roots Parents RSS Feed

Subscribe to the Rudd ‘Roots Parents new RSS feed, Rudd ‘Roots Radar, to learn about the latest news on school food, actions parents can take, and advocacy resources.

The Latest Rudd Center Podcasts

Roberta Friedman, ScM 
Director of Public Policy, Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

Preventing Obesity Through Public Policy

Rebecca Puhl, PhD
Director of Research and Weight Stigma Initiatives, Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity

The Rudd Center’s extensive library of podcasts is available for download on iTunes U and through an RSS feed.

Front Burner News

Fructose Linked to Overeating

Fructose, which is often added to processed foods and beverages, can trigger brain changes that may lead to overeating, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical AssociationRead more.

Daycare Centers can Help Combat Childhood Obesity


Daycare centers are in a unique position to combat childhood obesity since the problem usually begins in children between the ages of 5 and 6, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Read more.

McDonald’s Leaving Medical Facilities

Medical facilities are starting to sever ties with McDonald’s so they can offer healthier fare to their patients and staff. Read more.

Confusion over Ingredients in Food

People in England do not realize how much salt, sugar, and saturated fat are in the foods they consume every day, according to a survey by the Department of Health's Change4Life campaign. Read more.

Texas Offers Website to Help Reduce Childhood Obesity

Texas has launched, a website that aims to reduce childhood obesity and identify areas of the state where children are most at risk. Read more.

Obesity Declining in Low-Income Preschoolers

The number of low-income preschoolers who are obese has dropped over the last decade, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more.

Healthier Meals in Oakland Schools

Oakland School for the Arts in California has partnered with Revolution Foods to provide students with meals that have been prepared by chefs using local ingredients, no high-fructose corn syrup, and nothing fried or frozen. Read more.


Ban on Sugary Drinks in West Virginia Schools

The House and Senate health committees endorsed a bill that would ban soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks in West Virginia’s public schools. Read more.


Eliminate All Junk Food Marketing to Children

The FTC’s latest report on food and beverage marketing aimed at children provides evidence that it is essential for this marketing to stop in order to reverse childhood obesity. Read more.

Stop Subsidizing Soda and Junk Food


Soda and other junk foods should not be eligible for purchase using Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) dollars. While SNAP funding should be protected, it should be used only to purchase foods of high nutritional quality. Read more.

Patience Needed in Fixing Our Food Problem

Our dangerous diet and hyper-industrial agriculture system is going to take time to fix. Patience and determination are needed, as the sustainable food movement has just begun to  take shape. Read more.

Why Do Stars Think it’s Okay to Sell Soda?

Despite the link between soda and obesity, well known celebrities such as Beyoncé are still signing contracts with soda companies to promote the product. Beyoncé previously supported Michelle Obama’s Let's Move campaign. Read more.

Children on The Biggest Loser

The inclusion of children on the reality TV show The Biggest Loser endangers their lives. Read more.


"Happy Readers" at McDonald's

As part of its Happy Meals marketing strategy, McDonald’s is launching a two-year campaign called Happy Readers that gives away books and encourages children to read. Read more.

Food-Themed Online Games Affect Children's Eating Habits

Children who play online food product games eat more junk food, even if the game features fruit or other healthful choices, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical NutritionRead more.

General Mills Clarifies Fruit Roll-Ups Ingredients Label

General Mills has agreed to make changes to clarify the ingredients in one of its Fruit Roll-Ups products as part of the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Read more.

Health-Damaging Results of Junk Food Endorsements by Celebrities

Basketball player LeBron James should drop his endorsements of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s and instead promote a healthy lifestyle to children and teens. During the course of his 6-year, $16  million endorsement deal with Coke and McDonald’s, a billion spoons of sugar will be consumed in soft drinks from beverages sold by the companies. Read more.