School-Based Food, Drink Commercialism Still High

Study authors call for clear, enforceable nutritional standards for all foods, drinks marketed in schools

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 15, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- There continues to be a high prevalence of school-based commercialism of food and beverages, according to research published online Jan. 13 in JAMA Pediatrics.

Yvonne M. Terry-McElrath, from University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, and colleagues conducted a survey of U.S. public elementary, middle, and high school administrators to evaluate school-based commercialism. The commercialism included exclusive beverage contracts and associated incentives, profits, and advertising; corporate food vending and associated incentives and profits; posters/advertisements for soft drinks, fast food, or candy; use of food coupons as incentives; event sponsorships; and fast food available to students.

The researchers found that, in 2012, most students at all academic levels continued to attend schools with one or more types of school-based commercialism. The most frequent type of commercialism for elementary school students (63.7 percent) was food coupons used as incentives. The most prevalent type of commercialism in secondary schools was exclusive beverage contracts, which were in place in schools attended by 49.5 percent of middle school students and 69.8 percent of high school students. Both exposure to elementary school coupons and exclusive beverage contracts (middle and high school) were significantly more likely for students attending schools with mid or low student body socioeconomic status, compared to high socioeconomic status.

"Most U.S. elementary, middle, and high school students attend schools where they are exposed to commercial efforts aimed at obtaining food or beverage sales or developing brand recognition and loyalty for future sales," write the authors.

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