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Medical News & Perspectives
June 20, 2017

Junk Food Ads Reach Children Despite Food Industry Self-regulation

JAMA. 2017;317(23):2359-2361. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.4653

This Spring, visitors to an online interactive promotion for a snack called Cheetos Sweetos were invited to play Chester’s Eggstreme Egg Hunt. By decorating a digital egg on the website or “cracking” an egg with a Sweetos bag code, players had a chance to win prizes ranging from a toy foam football to a backyard water slide to a 5-night family vacation in Cancun. The promotion website prominently featured Chester Cheetah, the familiar Cheetos mascot.

Cheetos are made by Frito-Lay, a unit of PepsiCo, which is a member of the Council of Better Business Bureaus’ (BBB’s) Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). Through the initiative, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Burger King, and 14 other companies that represent most of the child-directed food commercials in the United States have voluntarily committed to devoting all of their marketing primarily aimed at children to “better-for-you foods.” These foods are defined by nutrition standards the CFBAI implemented in late 2013, and the rules apply to advertising on TV, websites, mobile media, radio, and print, among other forms of media, as well as in elementary schools.