To determine the frequency and content of food-related television (TV) advertisements shown on South African TV.
Four national TV channels were recorded between 15.00 and 21.00 hours (6 h each day, for seven consecutive days, over a 4-week period) to: (i) determine the number of food-related TV advertisements; and (ii) evaluate the content and approach used by advertisers to market their products. The data were viewed by two of the researchers and coded according to time slots, food categories, food products, health claims and presentation.
Of the 1512 recorded TV advertisements, 665 (44 %) were related to food. Of these, 63 % were for food products, 21 % for alcohol, 2 % for multivitamins, 1 % for slimming products and 13 % for supermarket and pharmacy promotions. Nearly 50 % of food advertisements appeared during family viewing time. During this time the most frequent advertisements were for desserts and sweets, fast foods, hot beverages, starchy foods and sweetened drinks. The majority of the alcohol advertisements (ninety-three advertisements, 67 %) fell within the children and family viewing periods and were endorsed by celebrities. Health claims were made in 11 % of the advertisements. The most frequently used benefits claimed were ‘enhances well-being’, ‘improves performance’, ‘boosts energy’, ‘strengthens the immune system’ and ‘is nutritionally balanced’.
The majority of food advertisements shown to both children and adults do not foster good health despite the health claims made. The fact that alcohol advertisements are shown during times when children watch TV needs to be addressed.
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