September 19th, 2012
FTC Shines Light On Food Ads, Kids
By Anton Troianovski
Wall Street Journal
Federal officials concerned about childhood obesity say they are closely watching the kinds of food being advertised to children. But there isn’t much they can do if they don’t like what they see.
The Federal Trade Commission plans to release a report by the end of the year detailing how dozens of food companies market their products to children. In an interview, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said the report will “make sure we have sunshine on industry practices.”
Beyond that, the options are limited for the FTC, which monitors advertising practices. After the FTC attempted to regulate ads on children’s television in the 1970s, Congress banned the commission from making broad rules on how food is advertised to kids. And last year, the FTC suffered another rebuke after joining three other agencies in proposing voluntary guidelines to get companies to advertise only healthy food to kids.
The food and advertising industries argued those draft guidelines were far too strict and amounted to backdoor regulation. The agencies eventually dropped their effort, and final versions of the guidelines were never released. Mr. Leibowitz says his aim now is to find other ways to encourage the industry to police itself.