Study finds loophole in self-regulation of junk food ads

“This study shows that companies' definition of child-directed programming is quite narrow," said Jennifer Harris, the study’s lead author. "It allows them to continue to advertise their least nutritious products during programs that do not qualify as child-directed according to their criteria but that clearly appeal to children—programs like ‘Hannah Montana’ and ‘Shrek the Halls’ holiday special.”

The Better Business Bureau touted that the program had yielded 50 percent less sugary food and drink ads to kids – but the study says that the total exposure to the least nutritious foods increased by 60 percent from 2008 to 2010.

The six categories of unhealthy foods — “candy, sweet snacks, crackers and savory snacks, carbonated beverages, fast food and other restaurants” — accounted for 78 percent of the total amount of all food ads seen by children, the study says.