TV ads push junk food, harm kids' diets

Most food and drink advertising to children promotes unhealthy choices and can lead to poor diets, experts said on Tuesday in a report recommending that the government step in if the industry doesn't act.

"Food and beverage marketing ... is a likely contributor to less &to=' target=_blank>healthful diets, and may contribute to negative diet-related health outcomes and risks among children and youth," they said in a report by the Institute of Medicine, an independent, nonprofit body that advises the government.

Last year, the food and beverage industry spent about $11 billion in advertising, including $5 billion on television commercials, mostly for products high in calories but with little nutritional value, according to the report.

Children were a willing audience for the ads, reports Reuters. The institute also recommends the creation of a rating system and food labeling to convey nutritional value.

"There is strong evidence that the television advertising of foods and beverages has influence on what children choose to eat," says J. Michael McGinnis, chairman of the committee that reviewed hundreds of studies on the impact of marketing, particularly TV ads, on the diets of children.

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