FTC Pushes Self-Regulation on Food Marketing

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The Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services have issued their recommendations for marketing food to kids and the bottom line is: Self regulation.

That conclusion stems from a conference last summer in which the government agencies heard from industry and academics on the issue of childhood obesity and the role of food marketing.

Media companies were urged to:

"continue to develop and disseminate educational messages about nutrition and fitness that are simple, positive, and repeated consistently across various platforms, with broad participation from other stakeholders;

"review and revise their licensing of children’s television and movie characters to foster promotion of more nutritious, lower-calorie foods."

The ad industry was encouraged to expand the powers of the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU).

That included:

•allowing parents to file complaints with CARU (CARU points out that it has always welcomed such complaints and has even made it easier through an online complaint form);
•expanding the CARU advisory board to include obesity and health experts, and "how to modify the CARU Guides to address forms of marketing foods to children other than traditional advertising," that would likely include food product placement, if any, in kids shows.

The American Advertising Federation was happy with the lack of government regulations, and said they would take CARU recommendations under advisement:

"We are pleased that the report does not call for further government regulations and acknowledges that the CARU Guides are a good foundation for industry self-regulation," said AAF in a statement. "As for the recommendation that the Guides be expanded, they are already under review in their entirety by the CARU task force. The NARC board will consider any recommended changes and act quickly and appropriately."

FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras telegraphed the findings and their self-regulatory approach in a speech last week ito infomercial marketers in New York first reported by B&C.
She told the marketers to look for the report "soon," but not for any ban on food marketing, pointing out that there would be "significant" First Amendment limitations. Plus, she said, "self-regulation of food marketing practices can be more effective, flexible, and expeditious than government regulation in changing the food marketing environment to address childhood obesity."

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