Kids and ads – a not so sweet combo, say feds
July 8th, 2010
09:00 AM ET
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Tony the Tiger may be filing for unemployment.

The Interagency Working Group, comprised of representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration, recently outlined its "Tentative Proposed Standards for Marketing Foods to Children" between two and 17 years of age.

According to the new standards:

Food must contain at least 50% by weight of one or more of the following: fruit; vegetable; whole grain; fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt; fish; extra lean meat or poultry; eggs; nuts and seeds; or beans.

Food must contain one of more of the following per RACC (Reference Amounts Customarily Consumed Per Eating Occasion):

  • 0.5 cups fruit or fruit juice
  • 0.6 cups vegetables or vegetable juice
  • 0.75 oz. equivalent of 100% whole grain
  • 0.75 cups milk or yogurt; 1 oz. natural cheese; 1.5 oz. processed cheese
  • 1.4 oz. meat equivalent of fish or extra lean meat or poultry
  • 0.3 cups cooked dry beans
  • 0.7 oz. nuts or seeds
  • 1 egg or egg equivalent

Foods marketed to children must not contain more than the following amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium.

  • Saturated Fat: 1 g or less per RACC and not more than 15% of calories
  • Trans Fat: 0 g per RACC (<0.5 g)
  • Sugar: No more than 13 g of added sugars per RACC
  • Sodium: No more than 200 mg per portion

The issue is: the immediate and concrete future of these marketing guidelines remains unforeseen.

The standards were presented at a "Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity" series of workshops back in December 15, 2009, BNET Today reported.

The Interagency Working Group stated it would submit a report containing its findings and recommendations on the proposed standards to Congress no later than July 15, 2010.

But as the fifteenth of July creeps closer with no recommendations in sight, the study merely exists as another example of the growing awareness of edible advertising's impact on children.

Just last month, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) threatened it would sue McDonald's within 30 days unless it stopped pairing toys with Happy Meals.

Meanwhile, Yale released a study that showed more than two-thirds of children prefer snack foods with Dora the Explorer, Scooby-Doo or Shrek displayed on the package - and about fifty percent of those kids said foods tasted better from packages with the cartoon characters.

In 2010 alone, cereal giant Kellogg's faced the wrath of the FTC twice.

First, the FTC said that the company erroneously claimed how Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was "clinically shown to improve kids' attentiveness by nearly 20%."

As Kellogg's agreed to desist its Frosted Mini-Wheat ads, the company simultaneously started packaging their Rice Krispies brand with claims that the cereal "now helps support your child's immunity," with "25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients – Vitamins A, B, C, and E."

Even prior to that, the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) expressed its concern over the Kellogg's Pop-Tarts catchphrase: "Made with Real Fruit." In reality, the breakfast pastry contains less than six percent of fruit.

"We hope that the Commission action announced today communicates to industry that it has an obligation to be honest with the public, and that the FTC will act swiftly to challenge questionable health claims about children's food products. Our kids and parents deserve no less," Kellogg wrote in a statement after the questioning and cease-and-desist order of their Rice Krispies campaign.

And as childhood obesity rates continue to rise in the U.S., challenge children's food products is exactly what the public keeps on doing.

Previously – read our Q & A with Top Chef's Tom Colicchio on the topic of school lunches, childhood hunger and the link between poverty and obesity.



soundoff (150 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    Advertising is totally out of control, in this country, and it is just a matter of time before government has to step in and regulate it.

    July 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm |
  2. Mr.Saeed

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    July 11, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
  3. Dabir Dalton

    Sean...

    Your argument against gov. regulation of the food industry is not only immature and naive but dangerously misinformed...The views that you many others espouse always leads to the muzzling of the regulators whenever a Republican is elected President: the last time during GwB's misguided reign it was tainted peanuts and tomatoes that sickened and killed many consumers. In the case of the tomato industry because the FDA had no way of tracking the outbreak to its source the vast majority of tomato growers were forced to watch their untainted tomatoes and profits rot in the sun until it was too late to bring them to market. In the case of the peanuts it was intentional poor sanitation at the processing plant that a properly trained FDA inspector could have stopped (if the FDA hadn't been hamstrung by the conservative mantra of smaller gov. is better) that led to the outbreak and the pulling of peanut butter from store shelves.

    Ignorant and misinformed Viewpoints do indeed have consequences and it would not surprise me if (heaven forbid) one day after you or one of your family members got sick after eating a tainted food product that you thought was safe began singing a whole different tune.

    July 9, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
  4. writingincorrales

    Cigarette packages have a warning about the dangers of cigarettes. Alcohol packaging have a similar warning regarding the dangers of alcohol. Could not foods that contain dangerous ingredients have a warning as well? Rather than making them illegal and thus removing our choice to give children foods that are demonstrably implicated in the rise in childhood obesity, elevated blood pressure, high cholesterol, not to mention the ever-popular tooth decay? Must it be one or the other? Either regulate your consumer choices away or give General Mills and whoever else cartte blanche on the premise that advertising is what comprises freedom of speech for the corporate citizen?

    Right now, foods targeting children (food should not be a weapon that "targets" anyone – but anyway), have bright appealing ads and packaging to match. If your package of Fructose-eos had a label that stated "Warning, the Surgeon General has determined that ingestion of high fructose corn syrup has been linked to increased rates of diabetes and obesity in children" – in clear obvious print – does that cover some of the issue?

    Just wondering. It is true that parents need to be parents. It is also true that at this time in history we are bombarded with confilcting information.

    July 9, 2010 at 9:33 am |
  5. lostbutf0und

    In the end it's the parents feeding the kids, so it's their responsibility. Apparently many people share the same point of view. So why so many child obesities?

    July 9, 2010 at 8:31 am |
  6. worldbisnis

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    July 9, 2010 at 8:29 am |
  7. pinky

    Good business is trying to prevent children from smoking that can provide food that is not unusual in life usually
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    July 9, 2010 at 8:24 am |
  8. Michael Eriksson

    While this is a measure against a serious problem, I am not certain that it is the most relevant measure-in particular, as advertising is also a danger to many gullible adults.

    I would prefer to focus efforts on preventing advertising that is untruthful, exaggerated, or irrelevant, including not only fraudulent claims (like the Kellog's cases mentioned above), but also those who e.g. play on emotions in a manner that is independent of the product. The goal should be to turn advertizing into actual product information.

    In addition, it might make sense to limit the amount of advertizing that may be present in various contexts.

    July 9, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  9. tanoybluesky

    believe you're referring to Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. The segment you're describing (at least, the one I saw that was like it) was very disturbing, especially when he had her put out on the table all the food the family ate in a week.

    July 9, 2010 at 6:07 am |
  10. YouGetWellSoon

    Food is the most fundamental of publicly-influenced necessities of life. As a parent, I ensured that my little ones (pre-2 years) never ate gluten or dairy, nuts or citrus. (I did this mostly due to the growing research that early exposures to foods that are common allergens seems to increase the likelihood of development of those allergies.) In fact, I had them eating a weird non-glutenous grain concoction with hemp protein and omega fatty acid-rich oil; twice a day. The stranger part is that even now that they're older, that's still breakfast. I'll add some yogurt, nut butter or even a choice of a handful of added cereal and more often than not they chose the non-sweet ones. (Choices include: Corn pops, Frosted flakes, plain Cheerios or plain Crispix).
    My point is that if parents are firm on what constitutes a meal, the kids will follow. Not perfectly, not every time but they develop a routine. Parents cannot control what's on TV but they can control how much of that TV is being consumed. It's never going to be a perfect system but parenting and limited choices does seem to sway kids' decisions.

    Thanks for the insightful post! And although I think it's a great idea to force advertisers to do a better job by their customers, I also think that there are far bigger fish to fry as far as legislation goes.

    July 9, 2010 at 2:22 am |
  11. wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas

    Wow, I'm glad to see that the eating habits of our children is such a hot topic! At least it's being discussed, and people are passionate.

    I've only been a parent for 8 months, but people challenge me every day about the fact that I am trying to help my son establish the healthiest possible relationship with food. I only wish I had the guts to fire back when I see babies gnawing on processed junk or carrying bottles full of soda. I prefer to focus on my own parenting.

    When it really comes down to it, I try to eat as many whole foods as possible, and one of the criteria I use to judge food is whether it even needs to be marketed. There are no commercials for my backyard garden or local organic farm.

    July 8, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
  12. bernmarx

    Also, unless I'm misreading the original story, this is not about how food can be marketed to children, it's about what food that is marketed to children can contain. For instance, unless "candy bars" don't count as food under this guideline, they cannot be marketed in a way that can be construed as advertising to children at all, since there's no real way to get most candy bars to conform to those content guidelines.

    And what does "marketed to children" mean? Obviously, no Dora the Explorer in Snickers commercials, no teenagers in M&Ms commercials, but then will it be no TV ads before 10 pm? No print ads in magazines that children might read, including magazines intended for adults but without mature enough content? Will Pop Tart ads be restricted to Maxim and Playboy? I'm particularly concerned about that particular phrasing.

    July 8, 2010 at 10:35 pm |
  13. Evie Garone

    I agree parents should be parents. We DO NOT need the Gov't telling us what to do. Education is ALWAYS the answer. We need to figure things out ourselves like we HAD been doing for years, like strong AMERICANS. People need to wake up before it's TOO late and the gov't takes over EVERYTHING and you will have no choice, no FREEDOMS, we will all be wearing the same uniform, eating the same gruel, and working for the same DICTATOR. Ayn Rand was right. The day is coming . . .

    evelyngaronewordpress.com

    July 8, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
  14. Jen

    How many people on this thread addressed the issue of subsidies for corn growers? High fructose corn syrup is an ingredient in most packaged foods as the result of these subsidies. We don't NEED this ingredient – it is poison! Now there are reports that HFCS not only is a major cause of diabetes and obesity, but also that is contains mercury. I have considered this ingredient poison for many years and avoid it whenever possible. Education is the key here, folks, not legislation. We also need to throw out all the corn lobbyists whose job it is to put a stop to fair journalism and education about the politics of the Food and Drug industry (FDA).

    The bonus is that is cheaper NOT to buy stuff with this junk anyway. I don't need Congress or TV to tell me how to shop and make my budget stretch. Thank goodness grocery shopping is all about common sense, and yes, you need to develop a discipline in order to use that common sense and resist marketing. TV and Congress are all about money and emotions and sadly, most Americans just don't get that. Every dollar is a ballot folks, cast yours wisely. It may be tough, but you can do it.

    Of course, his does not negate the importance of truth in advertising, but I don't think this will solve the problem. It simply a distraction away from the root of the problem, which of course IMHO is always lobbyists.

    July 8, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  15. Christopher

    Wonderful. More regulations for our free society. Tell me, when did people become so trusting of the government to parent our children. Parents decide what to feed their children. If the parents suck and the kid ends up fat then so be it. The food is still available and as long as kids know that whole grains and vegatables taste like a horses a s s then they are not going to want it and they'll pitch a fit until mommy gets em what they want. Businesses who promote this stuff are only playing to the fact that children have control of their parents instead of the other way around. As bad as this problem is it is really not the governments place to solve it. They can suggest parents do a better job and educate them as to how but other than that stay the h e l l out of people's lives.

    July 8, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
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