Consider these 3 frightening facts:
1. The food industry spends close to $2 Billion a year advertising foods to kids
2. Cookies and cakes, pizza, and soft drinks are the top sources of calories in the diets of children 2 through 18.
3. Chips and french fries comprise half of all the vegetables kids eat.
Somebody’s got to do something, right?
Last week, the Federal Trade Commission published a proposal with guidelines for marketing food to children. This, part of a cat and mouse game with the junk food industry, trying to limit kids’ exposure to commercials for foods and beverages of low to negative nutritional value.
The proposal was put forth by the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (Working Group), comprised of representatives from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Here are 2 principles they’ve put together, which in theory sounds fantastic:
A – Foods marketed to children must make a meaningful contribution to healthful diets, and contain at least one of the healthy food groups: fruits & veggies, whole grains, low fat or fat free dairy, fish, extra lean meat, eggs, nuts & seeds, beans
B – foods should minimize intake of nutrients that could have a negative impact on health or weight. For example, 0 trans-fat.
The proposals are now entering a “waiting for comments from the public” phase, where we can all say our piece, but mostly lobbies for the foods industry will.
As expected, food advertising agencies have already warned:
If companies were to comply with these proposals, the restrictions are sufficiently onerous that they would basically block a substantial amount of advertising.
Duh. That’s the whole point!
Before we congratulate the inter-office working group on these proposals, let’s remind ourselves that there is no legal obligation for the food industry to follow these proposals once they are formally adopted by the government in 2016 (5 years! Boy the government works slowly).
No matter what the government regulators do get approved, creative marketers will always find a way to get to our kids. And with so many technology based options to touch kids these days (facebook, youtube, video games) don’t doubt for a second that children will continue to be exposed to massive amounts of junk food ads before they can even spell Froot Loops.
So your best bet is to fooducate your kids from an early age about the meaning of advertising and commercials, and help them critically view messages aimed at them.