House GOP Continues to Thwart Children’s Food Advertising Guidelines

As both a parent and a former advertising lawyer for a major food and cosmetics conglomerate, I’ve been following with interest the Obama administration’s attempts to curb the marketing of unhealthful foods to children.

Earlier this year, I gave you a sense of how the current voluntary self-regulation scheme is pretty much a joke (“Fox Guards Henhouse: Industry’s Self-Regulation of Children’s Food Advertising“).  So when a few months ago a federal interagency group (FTC, CDC, FDA and USDA) released more voluntary standards for the marketing of food to children, I wasn’t that excited.  True, the new guidelines do actually lay out the nutritional requirements for foods that may be freely marketed to children (as opposed to letting manufacturers set those standards in the old scheme.)   But it was my feeling (as I summed up in my winning entry for the Slate magazine childhood obesity Hive) that only actual legislation, with real penalties for violation, will ever really rein in Big Food.

But apparently food companies feel sufficiently threatened by the proposed voluntary scheme to be fighting back tooth and nail.  The Associated Press reported yesterday on House GOP efforts to thwart the new guidelines by “by including a provision in next year’s Federal Trade Commission budget that would require the government to study the potential costs and impacts of the guidelines before implementing them.”  Even one Democratic lawmaker (Rep. G. K. Butterfield of North Carolina) is quoted as expressing concern about the government’s failure produce evidence that the guidelines “will serve the government’s goals of changing long-term eating habits.”  And, not surprisingly, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (a trade group of the largest food manufacturers in the country) is up in arms.

It remains to be seen whether the guidelines will withstand the political onslaught and/or whether they’ll emerge from the process in a greatly weakened form.  I’ll of course keep you posted here.


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  1. Mel says

    Aren’t we “nannied” enough? The problem isn’t the fact that certain foods are marketed to children. Does the child jump in the car and go buy the “bad food” or what — threaten the parent with a tantrum or even worse? Of course not. This issue is ONLY parental responsibility. The government can waste loads of money on the issue, and make pariahs out of big corporations/advertisers, but until a mom or dad can learn to say “no” said child (God forbid), nothing will change as far as childrens’ eating habits. I find it funny that people assume the children in the home are the decision-makers based upon ads they see on TV. I’m surprised that you, as a parent, believe the problem lies with the companies that make and market the junk, and not the parent that goes out and buys it.

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Mel: I’m glad for this comment and want to reply in a post so I can address it fully. I’ll share the link here, too, when it’s up. Thank you for coming by TLT and for challenging my views. Always a good thing!

  2. Karen Frenchy says

    While I agree that parents should be the decision-makers (our rule in our home), I’m quite appalled that food companies/industries target kids or adults the way they do (commercials for greasy meals at 6 am / or Vitamin Water -_-)
    Actually, it’s not really the way they target “us” but more what they offer: full of bad ingredients (too salty, too sweet etc…), claiming their product is “safe” & nutritious.

    After watching Food Inc, I was SHOCKED to see some officials making the decision not to label “cloned meat” on packages after a presentation from a Meat company: it’s not in the consumers’ interest, they don’t need to know, meat is meat etc… euh what?

    Okay, back to the subject. I might sound harsh but seeing how & what this country eats, health problems (among them morbid obesity), for me, the companies’ actions/marketing are criminal. Having no regulation is the same. Yes, as parents, we teach our children right from wrong, good food vs bad food. It is our role. But it is really annoying to see and hear commercials/signs for food/snacks/meals targeting children… Makes me think about pollution. So a little help from the Government in our fight against this type pollution is more than welcome.

    • Bettina Elias Siegel says

      Karen — I totally feel your frustration. I’m going to have a follow up to this post. Stay tuned.


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