FTC Seeks Comment On Proposal For Study On Food Marketing to Kids, Teens

Study prompted by growing concern over childhood obesity

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment on its proposal to conduct a new study on food marketing to kids and adolescents.

It would be a follow-up to a study of 2006 data published just last year. It is proposing to seek more information from 45 food, beverage and fast food restaurant companies, including their child-targetted marketing activities and expenditures and nutritional information for the products marketed.

The study was prompted by growing concern over childhood obesity, which is fast becoming the nation's top health risk.

The FTC wants to gauge how well the industry has self-regulated since 2006. That data was collected before the Council of Better Business Bureaus implemented its Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which has resulted in changes to nutritional content and marketing practices.

Those included that companies 1) adopt "meaningful nutrition-based standards" for products marketed to kids 12 and under; 2) that food and beverage companies define kid-targeted marketing to include websites, digital ads, and viral advertising as well as more traditional means; and 3) that they limit character licensing to healthier foods. At the time the FTC said it would issue the follow-up report.

The new study wil include information on marketing to adolescents (12-17) as well as kids 2-11, and will seek information on marketing to youth of "a specific gender, race, ehtnicity, or income level."

Comments are due Nov. 23, 2009.