To assist the fight against childhood obesity, Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin Friday introduced legislation that would restore the Federal Trade Commission's authority to restrict food advertising to children.
That power was stripped in the 1980s by congressmen concerned when the agency made noises about imposing limits on marketing to kids.
Harkin's bill would also give the FDA authority to reduce smoking by preventing tobacco advertising likely to reach children.
The legislation would implement mandatory menu labeling at chain restaurants and would give the Department of Agriculture authority to prohibit advertising of food in schools participating in school lunch and breakfast programs.
The measures are part of a broader bill, dubbed the HeLP America Act, that would fund programs for wellness and healthy lifestyles. Harkin said his bill "provides all sectors - child care centers, schools, workplaces, and communities -with the tools they need to reach the goal of making America a healthier place.”
A coalition of media activists also pledged to launch a national campaign to build support for reviving the FTC's power to restrict marketing to children. "This legislation is a first step in protecting children and families from the out-of-control advertising that is plaguing all consumers," said Josh Silver, managing director of Free Press.
According to the U.S. Surgeon General, 15% of kids age 6 and older are overweight, more than twice the proportion two decades ago.