Food Companies Fight to Advertise to Children

A food-labeling campaign began last year called Smart Choices, backed by most of the largest food manufacturers in the U.S., was “designed to help shoppers easily identify smarter food and beverage choices.” This included the campaign’s “check mark of approval” on food packages.

The problem is, some of the food held up as “healthy choices” include sugary cereals like Fruit Loops and frozen fried dinners.

But there’s an effort afoot among government agencies to create tougher advertising standards for what foods can be marketed to kids. Last year, Congress ordered the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  to recommend standards for children’s food advertising.

“With obesity rates the way they are, it’s no longer acceptable for companies to be marketing foods to kids that contribute to obesity and heart disease and other health problems,” said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The government is asking food companies to police themselves, in essence, by setting standards for what is suitable to advertise to kids. But letting the inmates run the asylum will almost inevitably fail. For instance, Kellogg’s standards allows it to advertise Fruit Loops to children. If a company can’t see that Fruit Loops is a bad food choice for children, what are they restricting?

Four participants in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Hershey and Mars, have agreed not to aim any advertising to children under 12.

(via: The New York Times)

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