Public Health Nutrition

Public policies

An analysis of the content of food industry pledges on marketing to children

Corinna Hawkesa1 c1 and Jennifer L Harrisa2

a1 Consulting Services, Food and Nutrition Policy and Fellow, Centre for Food Policy, City University, London, UK

a2 Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, Department of Psychology, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA


Objective To identify pledges made by the food industry to change food marketing to children worldwide, examine their content and discuss their potential to reduce the harmful effects of food marketing to children.

Design A search for pledges and specific commitments made by participating companies and a content analysis of their scope and criteria used to define the marketing covered or excluded.

Setting Global.

Subjects Food industry pledges.

Results Between 2005 and 2009, the food industry developed thirteen pledges on food marketing to children, involving fifty-two food companies. Two of the pledges were global, two were regional and nine applied to specific countries. Three were specific to the soft drinks industry and to the fast-food industry, with the rest being food industry wide. Ten of the pledges required companies to publish individual commitments; a total of eighty-two such commitments were published, many of which extended beyond the minimum standards set in the pledges. All pledges included definitions of children and child-targeted media, as well as the communication channels and marketing techniques covered, and permitted companies to set criteria for foods that are exempted from any restrictions. There were many similarities between the pledges and individual commitments; however, there were also many differences.

Conclusions The development of pledges on food marketing to children in such a short span of time is impressive. However, limitations and inconsistencies in the pledges and commitments suggest that the food industry has a long way to go if its pledges are to comprehensively reduce the exposure and power of marketing to children.

(Received August 31 2010)

(Accepted February 25 2011)

(Online publication May 10 2011)


c1 Corresponding author: Email