October 7th, 2011

Companies marketing food to kids need stronger guidelines, health advocates say

By Jeannine Stein
Los Angeles Times

Marketing unhealthful foods and beverages to children is off the charts, say some food and health advocacy groups, and they called on the Obama administration Thursday to support voluntary guidelines on how companies advertise to kids and how they formulate their products.

To hammer their point home, a video titled “We’re Not Buying It” was unveiled at a press conference Thursday that featured representatives from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Prevention Institute, Public Health Law & Policy, Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, the Center for Digital Democracy and the Berkeley Media Studies Group. The video, which the panelists hope will go viral, highlights the tremendous and sometimes insidious marketing efforts directed to children, often at a pace parents can’t control. With childhood obesity rates still high, they said, something more needs to be done.

Despite being asked to self-regulate, “Companies are still mostly marketing sugary cereals, fast foods, snack foods and sugary drinks,” said Margo Wootan, CSPI’s director of nutrition policy. Kids live in a media-saturated environment, she said, in which food packaging, toys and even iPods are not safe from marketing ploys. “Even if a child never watches TV,” Wootan aded, “They’ll still be bombarded by lots and lots of marketing.”

There might be less of an uphill battle, the panelists said, if the Obama administration gave its nod to the guidelines created by the Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children, a group of agencies directed by Congress to come up with guidelines for the nutritional quality of food that’s marketed to children ages 2 to 17. Those agencies include the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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