Evidence supports that television food advertisements influence children's food preferences and their consumption. However, few studies have examined the extent and nature of food marketing to children in low and middle income countries. This study aims to assess the nutritional quality of foods and beverages advertised on Mexican TV, applying the Mexican, World Health Organization (WHO) European and United Kingdom (UKNPM) nutrient profile models, before the Mexican regulation on food marketing came into effect.
We recorded 600 h on the four national public and free TV channels with the highest national ratings, from December 2012 to April 2013. Recordings were done for 40 randomly selected (week, weekend, school and vacation) days, from 7 am to 10 pm. Nutritional information per 100 g/ml of product was obtained from the product labels or company websites.
A total of 2,544 food and non-alcoholic beverage advertisements were broadcast, for 275 different products. On average, the foods advertised during cartoon programming had the highest energy (367 kcal) and sugar (30.0 g) content, while foods advertised during sport programming had the highest amount of total fat (9.5 g) and sodium (412 mg) content. More than 60 % of the foods advertised did not meet any nutritional quality standards. 64.3 % of the products did not comply with the Mexican nutritional standards, as compared with 83.1 % and 78.7 % with WHO Europe and UKNPM standards, respectively. The food groups most frequently advertised were beverages (24.6 %), followed by chocolate and confectionery sugar (19.7 %), cakes, sweet biscuits and pastries (12.0 %), savory snacks (9.3 %), breakfast cereals (7.1 %), ready-made food (6.4 %) and dairy products (6.0 %).
The majority of foods and beverages advertised on Mexican TV do not comply with any nutritional quality standards, and thus should not be marketed to children. The nutritional quality standards applied by the Mexican regulation are much weaker than those applied by the WHO Europe and United Kingdom. The Mexican government should improve the nutrition standards in its new regulation, especially the sugar cut off points.