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Markey Pressures Marketers to Follow Kellogg’s Lead

Jun 19, 2007  •  Post A Comment

The pressure from Washington for food and fast food companies to follow Kellogg Co.’s lead and further limit their kids TV ads to more nutritious choices is growing.
The chairman of a house panel wrote five food and fast food marketers demanding they implement similar limits and announced new plans for a hearing on the issue.
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who chairs the telecom panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said his panel’s Friday hearing about the impacts of violent and tobacco smoking images kids see on TV will now also look at the impact of food ads they see.
The issue holds some big concerns for broadcasters and cable channels who depend on the ads as one of the mainstay supporting children’s programming. Not yet clear is whether some of the changes will lead food companies to cut their kids ads or merely change which products get advertised to them.
Kellogg last week announced that as part of a settlement of a lawsuit it would limit its advertising of kids foods to products that meet new nutritional health criteria and went beyond rivals to say if it couldn’t alter products to meet minimum health standards, it would quit advertising them to kids.
Rep. Markey’s letters ask McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kraft Foods and PepsiCo to implement the same curbs but also delivers a warning about what might happen if the companies don’t act.
Rep. Markey cited a report from the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine that said marketing could have an impact on food choices.
“I am concerned that the prevalence of advertisements on children’s television for junk food, fast food and other foods wholly lacking in nutritional value is one of the root causes of America’s childhood obesity epidemic,” Rep. Markey said in the letters.
“I would like to know whether your company will commit to implementing the same marketing restrictions Kellogg has announced. Such information may inform the subcommittee and the public as to additional steps that may be warranted to safeguard kids from junk food ads during children’s television programming.”
In an April 16 letter to several Federal Communications Commission commissioners, Rep. Markey suggested that the agency may need to play a more active role in limiting food advertising on kids shows if marketers don’t act.
“There is no question that the commission has both the affirmative obligation and the statutory authority to examine whether placing limitations on certain food advertising to children would further the public interest,” he wrote then. “If a ‘core’ educational program tells children to eat healthy foods and exercise, but the advertisements aired during the program encourage them to eat Twinkies and Fruit Loops, the ads have the potential to undercut the educational and informational value of the program.”

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