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Most Food Advertised on TV Unhealthy

2009/04/01 Source

By Jane Han
Staff Reporter

When television viewers get inspired by how a simple cup of instant coffee can bring together a father and son for a pleasant talk, their attention doesn't exactly go to how laden with sugar and saturated-fat the coffee actually is.

As such, a slew of TV commercials for foodstuffs slip into viewers' minds giving a positive impression when, in fact, the majority of them are unhealthy, a new study said Wednesday.

Moon Young-sook, an advertising professor of Hanyang University, analyzed 493 food-related television advertisements aired last year and found that 73 percent of them were low in nutritional value, while just 27 percent were considered healthy.

The items listed as good for the body were high-fiber grains, lean meat, fruits, vegetables and health supplements. Those that fell under the unhealthy category were fast food, soft drinks, tea, coffee, snacks and instant food products.

Moon said commercials generally didn't provide solid information to consumers, as almost 75 percent of the foodstuffs advertised lacked nutritional labels.

Products high in cholesterol, fat and caffeine failed to indicate their total content, while even the self-claimed health products didn't support their nutritional values sufficiently, according to the report.

She said the excessive and incorrect use of the term "well-being" without background information is misleading to consumers.

"Marketers tend to get by through the use of `emotional insight' so that they can appeal to their audience", said Moon, adding that such packaging is also misleading.

The reported pointed out that children are most prone to the these junk food ads, as more than 80 percent of them were aired during child-favored time slots, which can ultimately lead to youngsters' increased intake of high-caloric, low-nutritional value food.

To protect young viewers from overexposure to these products, local health authorities intended to ban marketers from airing junk food commercials during television time slots most watched by children.

The Korea Food Administration and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Family Affairs said last May that they would implement a "junk food curfew" in which advertisements for unhealthy food would be forbidden from being aired between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.

However, the plan recently hit a snag with food companies and broadcasters' putting up resistance to the prohibition.

Moon's report stressed that continuous efforts are needed to help consumers be more aware of the products they're being encouraged to purchase.

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