FTC Takes Issue with Food Marketing to Kids

Apr 16, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The Federal Trade Commission intends to issue compulsory requests for information about food marketing to kids— much of it on TV— to a broad range of food, fast food and beverage marketers as it tries to assess the breadth of the marketing for a congressional report.

Formal notice of plans for the “compulsory process orders” are expected to be announced in a public notice this week, with individual company requests likely being sent out this summer after the FTC seeks public comment and its plan gets a needed OK from the Office of Management and Budget.

FTC chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, announced the plans in a little noted April 12 speech to the Food and Drug Law Institute saying the FTC wants to gather a far more detailed view of company food marketing practices to kids than has been readily available.

“We hope to get a more complete picture of marketing techniques for which publicly available data have so far been lacking,” she said.

While information about marketers TV food advertising is generally available, there has been some confusion about the extent food marketers use other vehicles including movies, videogames and the internet for product placement and advertising on kids web sites. Some of those vehicles are web sites from media companies like those from Disney, Viacom’s Nickelodeon and Time-Warner’s Cartoon Network. The FTC request could increase scrutiny of food marketing activities on those web sites.

Ms. Majoras said the FTC wants to look broadly.

“This effort is exploring not only traditional TV, print and radio advertising, but will provide an analysis of all of the many other ways that the industry reaches children — through in-store promotions, events, packaging, the Internet and product placement in video games, movies and television programs.”

Ms. Majoras also said the FTC is planning a second joint workshop with the Department of Health and Human Services about kids food marketing on July 18. The first workshop in 2005 pushed marketers to rein in their marketing of unhealthy food choices. She said the new workshop will look at progress since the initial workshop.

(Editor: Romanelli)