Food makers argue against proposed marketing guidelines

May 27, 2011

According to The Washington Post, on May 24, food manufacturers gathered to tell regulators that the first-ever proposed guidelines for marketing to children would not stop the childhood obesity problem but would certainly hurt their businesses and abridge their right to free speech. The guidelines, ordered by Congress and written by a team from the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Agriculture Department, ignited a debate about the role of marketing in soaring obesity rates among children.

The regulators held the May 24 meeting to gather input from the public. They are accepting written comments until July 14 before finalizing the recommendations and submitting them in a report to Congress. The far-reaching guidelines would cover a wide array of marketing, from traditional media such as television, print, and radio to pop-up ads on Internet sites. They would apply to social media, toys in fast-food meals, ads shown in movie theaters, sponsorship of athletic teams and philanthropic activities, as well as product placement in movies and video games. The guidelines would be voluntary and implemented over a decade. But food companies and advertising firms say they would feel great pressure to follow guidelines, making them de facto regulations.

The guidelines set out that foods advertised to children cannot exceed limited amounts of added sugars, saturated fat, sodium, or trans fat. And they must include healthy ingredients, such as fruit and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, or whole grains.

The sugar limits would pose a problem for many foods currently marketed to children. Under the guidelines, one serving of a food aimed at children could not exceed 8 g of sugar. A single serving of Count Chocula cereal currently contains 12 g of sugar; a serving of Frosted Flakes contains 11 g.

The guidelines would apply to both young children and teenagers. Food makers and advertisers argue the guidelines be more narrowly tailored when applied to teenagers because much of the programming and media consumed by teenagers are also seen by adults. Federal regulators say they will take that notion into consideration in the final recommendations.

The Washington Post article

Proposed guidelines