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FTC Proposes New Rules on Food Advertising Aimed at Children

The New York Times reported the Federal Government “proposed sweeping new guidelines on Thursday that could push the food industry to overhaul how it advertises cereal, soda pop, snacks, restaurant meals and other foods to children.” Citing an “epidemic of childhood obesity, regulators are taking aim at a range of tactics used to market foods high in sugar, fat or salt to children, including the use of cartoon characters like Toucan Sam, the brightly colored Froot Loops pitchman, who appears in television commercials and online games as well as on cereal boxes.” The guidelines “were created at the request of Congress and written by the commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Agriculture Department and the Centers for Disease Control.”

The Los Angeles Times reported the “food manufacturers should make those changes soon, with a target date just five years away, in 2016; they should revamp their advertising pitches and marketing messages to stress the nutritional values of their fare and shift their ad campaigns away from less healthy options; and they should do all this voluntarily (please), said the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children.”

The AP reported the government “is pressuring food companies to cut back on marketing unhealthy foods to children, releasing guidelines Thursday that could phase out advertisements on television, in stores and on the Internet if companies agree to go along with them.” Under the “voluntary guidelines, companies would be urged to only market foods to children ages 2 through 17 if they are low in fats, sugars and sodium and contain specified healthy ingredients.” If companies “agree, children could see much less of the colorful cartoon characters used to advertise cereals or other gimmicks designed to draw their attention.”

The Hill reported the “agencies said that, by 2016, food marketed to children should contain no trans fat, 1 gram or less of saturated fat and no more than 13 grams of added sugar. They also want such foods to include at least one nutrient from a list of food types that includes fruit, vegetables, fish and nuts.”

On its website, FOX News reported the guidelines “set parameters that are stricter than many companies have set for themselves and, if the companies agree, would eliminate much of the advertising consumers see today – on television, in magazines, in stores and on the Internet – for foods that appeal to children.”

The Wall Street Journal reported that while the FTC guidelines are voluntary, they are expected to change marketing models across a side swath of the advertising industry. Dan Jaffe of the Association of National Advertisers said, “We can see right from the outset that this is going to be highly restrictive.”

The UK’s Financial Times reported Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, “Children are strongly influenced by the foods they see advertised on television and elsewhere. Creating a food marketing environment that supports, rather than undermines, the efforts of parents to encourage healthy eating among children will have a significant impact on reducing the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic.”

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Secretary Sebelius also said, “These new Principles will help food and beverage companies use their creativity and resources to strengthen parents’ efforts to encourage their children to make healthy choices.”

Reuters reported Sen. Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, said, “On a daily basis, kids across the country are barraged with ads for junk foods and it is long past time that we put some limits on the advertising of these unhealthy foods. Armed with these guidelines, it is now my hope that companies will voluntarily abide by them.”

In a post at Time‘s “Healthland” blog, Meredith Melnick said in “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) current Children’s Food Environment State Indicator Report [PDF], the agency takes a state-by-state look at three major food environments for American kids: child care, school and the community.” Overall, “only two states (Georgia and Nevada) have regulations to restrict sugary drinks in child-care centers; about half require access to drinking water throughout the day; and 18 specifically limit TV-watching time.” It “doesn’t get much better by the time kids get to school age: the report finds that 64% of US middle and high schools allow sodas and other sugar-laden drinks to be sold on campus; 51% stock vending machines with chips, cookies, cakes and other unhealthy snacks; and 49% allow junk-food advertising at school.”

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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