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Study: Food marketing in social media apps

The Ottawa-based Heart and Stroke Foundation has released the results of a study into food marketing in social media applications. According to the study, 75% of children in Canada between the ages of seven and 16 are exposed to food marketing via apps, particularly for processed foods and beverages high in fat, salt or sugar. The study examined smartphone and tablet applications for services including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube. It found that children view an average of 111 ads per week for food and beverage products. A second study examined food and beverage marketing on free gaming applications. These results find that children see an average of 145 ads per year.

The companies advertising most frequently include McDonald's, Starbucks, PepsiCo, Mars, Coca-Cola and Restaurant Brands International. The most frequently promoted food categories include fast food, sugar-sweetened beverages, candy, snacks and alcohol.

"Our research shows that kids are frequently exposed to food and beverage ads and most of the products are considered to be unhealthy," said Monique Potvin Kent, assistant professor at the University of Ottawa and author of the study. "This level of exposure may greatly influence children's perception of a normal diet as well as their food preferences and the foods they actually consume. It's positive that the food and beverage industry is mostly steering clear of advertising on free gaming apps however, they are still targeting children with unhealthy food advertising where they congregate online. They're focusing their marketing efforts on social media apps because they know kids are using these platforms.

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