Natural Foods Merchandiser

Food firms praised for efforts on marketing to kids

But it's not enough, warns FTC, as $1.6 billion spend is exposed

by Richard Clarke

The Federal Trade Commission praised 13 food and beverage companies for their efforts to change the way they market their products to children—but also warned that much more needs to be done.

The FTC singled out the Children's Food and Beverage Initiative, launched by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, for praise. Thirteen of the largest food and beverage companies have signed up for the program, under which companies pledge to market their products more responsibly.

But speaking at the launch of the report, FTC Commissioner Jon Liebowitz said: "Most large food marketers are beginning to take their self-regulatory obligations seriously, and for that they deserve recognition. Yet some companies still need to step up to the plate and others need to strengthen their voluntary measures."

The FTC said its analysis showed that in 2006, 44 major food and drink companies spent $1.6 billion advertising their products to children up to age 17, more than half of which was spent targeting kids 12 or younger. According to the Associated Press, $490 million was spent on marketing soda, primarily to adolescents.

In its report, the FTC recommended all food companies adopt meaningful, nutritional standards in their marketing. It also called on media and entertainment companies to restrict use of television and movie characters to marketing for healthier products. Pressure is gathering worldwide on food and drink companies to ensure their advertising doesn't adversely impact children's health. Global pressure group Consumers International has called for an outright ban on marketing of junk food to children in a bid to curb childhood obesity.

Additional reporting by Marty Traynor Spencer

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