FTC seeks food makers’ help to assess marketing to children

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Marketing, Ftc

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has requested comments on proposed orders that would oblige food and drink manufacturers to disclose details of the marketing of their products to children.

The orders, outlined in the Federal Register published this week, would require manufacturers to provide information on advertising and marketing of their foods and beverages to children and adolescents ahead of a new FTC report, as well as the nutritional information of the products that they market to younger consumers.

In 2008, the FTC published a report called Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation.​ That report analyzed 2006 marketing activities directed at children, and now the FTC said it intends to use 2009 marketing and nutritional data collected to analyze changes in food marketing to children that have occurred over time, and plans to issue a follow-up report.

In 2006, the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) launched the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, “aimed at shifting the mix of advertising messaging directed to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles.”​ It is expected that the follow-up report will reflect nutritional changes that have taken place since the instigation of the CBBB initiative, which currently includes commitments from 16 major food and beverage companies.

Vice president and director of the initiative Elaine Kolish told FoodNavigator-USA.com that significant changes will be evident if the FTC report examines change within individual products, rather than by counting the number of products advertised in various categories.

Kolish said: “Our goal was not necessarily to reduce marketing to kids but to shift towards marketing healthier foods and beverages…I think they [the FTC] are going to do a deeper dive into it. It’s not very helpful to say there are more advertisements for crackers, for example, if you don’t know that those crackers have less sodium and less fat.”

She added that the earlier FTC report had provided useful information about food marketing to children, including the revelation that about $1.6bn was spent each year by 44 major food and beverage marketers to promote their products to children and adolescents – much less than many had estimated.

The deadline for making comments to the commission is June 24. The Federal Register text and instructions for making comments is available here​.

Related topics: Suppliers

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