Could Google Help Curb Online Advertising of Unhealthy Foods to U.S. Children?
American Journal of Preventive Medicine
Introduction: In 2020, Google took voluntary action to restrict food and beverage advertising through its online channels in the European Union/United Kingdom using Google's own nutrient profiling model to identify products eligible to be marketed to children through its Google Display Network. The objective of this study was to evaluate the potential impact of the Google policy, if applied to the U.S. market, on restricting online advertising of the top-selling packaged foods and beverages in the U.S. Methods: The top 25 U.S. food and beverage manufacturers were identified. Nutrient data for products from these manufacturers were sourced from Label Insight (a Nielsen IQ company) in 2021. Each product was examined against four nutrient profiling models: the Google nutrient profiling model, the WHO Europe nutrient profiling model, the Pan American Health Organization nutrient profiling model, and the Chilean government nutrient profiling model. Results: Under Google's nutrient profiling model, 18% of 14,188 products were eligible to be advertised to children, representing $44 billion in revenue for the top 25 U.S. manufacturers of the >$240 billion generated annually. The Google nutrient profiling model permitted the most products to be advertised to children of all four nutrient profiling models examined. Conclusions: U.S. children engage extensively with online media. In place of government regulation, the Google advertising policy and related nutrient profiling model would limit online advertising of the most unhealthful products to children, if the policy were to be applied to the U.S. market. The effectiveness of the policy would be strengthened by refining the Google nutrient profiling model to better align with nutrient profiling models developed by authoritative health agencies, including the WHO.
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National Health and Medical Research Council