FTC to require company info on marketing to kids

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Public health, Federal trade commission, Ftc

Food and beverage manufacturers are set to have to disclose
information on their marketing techniques and expenditures used to
promote products to children, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
has said.

The commission, which is proposing to issue compulsory process orders to major manufacturers, distributors and foodservice firms, has called for public comment on the proposed information requests. FTC had also asked for comments to the proposals last year, but the responses received did not provide sufficient information, especially empirical data, to prepare its report. The Food Industry Marketing to Children Report will include an analysis of commercial advertising time on television, radio, and in print media of food and beverage products targeting children. The commission, which is now accepting additional comments filed by May 18 2007, is to submit the information collection requirements to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Companies likely to receive these requests are those selling the types of products that appear to be most frequently advertised to children. These include breakfast cereals, snack foods, candy and gum, sodas and other beverages, frozen and chilled desserts, prepared meals and dairy products. In addition, the FTC proposes to collect information from major marketers of fruits and vegetables to ensure that data are gathered regarding efforts to promote consumption of these foods among children and adolescents. The information requests will seek information regarding, among other things: the types of foods marketed to children and adolescents; the types of media techniques used in these marketing efforts; the amount spent on this marketing; and the amount of commercial advertising time directed to children and adolescents that results from this spending. All information received will remain confidential, said the FTC, and it will also be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. In addition, the information presented in the report will not reveal and company specific data. The commission, which has the authority to request the disclosure of this data under section 6(b) of the FTC Act, proposes to send information requests to 44 major food and beverage firms, distributors and fast food restaurants in the US. According to FTC, the estimated cost burden for companies collecting this information will be $1.6m. Estimated hours burden is 6,000. These estimations will vary depending on each company and its products. However, in a comment already sent by the trade association GMA/FPA, the group claims that the cost of hiring financial and legal assistants to prepare a response could alone equal $25,000 for smaller companies and $50,000 for larger companies. Although not directly opposing the data collection, GMA/FPA stated that the need for data is limited when compared to the cost of obtaining and compiling it, and noted that food and beverage television advertising to children has substantially decreased over the last thirty years and is not likely a factor that contributes to increasing childhood obesity levels. In contrast, comments received from other industry associations and public health groups expressly favored the data collection. These organizations included the Public Health Institute (PHI) and, separately, the Public Health Law Program (PHLP) of the PHI; members of the Children's Media Policy Coalition of the Georgetown University Law Center Institute for Public Representation (CMPC members); Consumers Union; and the California Department of Health Services (CDHS). Comments from The Mercatus Center suggested that the FTC research and report on the new self regulatory initiatives being undertaken by food and beverage industry members, including the revised CARU guidelines and the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, as well as company-specific initiatives. To view the Federal Register notice filed last week, click here​.

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