Government Proposes New Guidelines For Marketing Food To Kids

Earlier today, an interagency working group consisting of folks from the Federal Trade Commission, Centers for Disease Control, Food and Drug Administration, and the Dept. of Agriculture, issued a set of “proposed voluntary principles” it hopes the food industry will ultimately adopt in its marketing to the youth of America.

According to a statement on the FTC site, these principles are “designed to encourage stronger and more meaningful self-regulation by the food industry and to support parents’ efforts to get their kids to eat healthier foods.”

The principles take a two-pronged approach to the marketing and advertising of the foods most often targeted to children — breakfast cereals, snack foods, candy, carbonated beverages, fruit juice, frozen desserts, and fast food among others.

First, the group asks for advertising and marketing to “encourage children to choose foods that make meaningful contributions to a healthful diet from food groups including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish, extra lean meat and poultry, eggs, nuts or seeds, and beans.”

Second, the group is asking for the food industry to cut the saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and sodium in foods marketed to children. Here are some of the suggestions:

• Saturated Fat: 1 g or less per RACC (Reference Amount Customarily Consumed; not necessarily the labeled serving size) and 15% or less of calories
• Trans Fat: 0 g per RACC
• Added Sugars: No more than 13 g of added sugars per RACC
• Sodium: No more than 210 mg per serving

The working group hopes these principles will be adopted in full by 2016, with the exception of its suggested standards for sodium, which it is extending to 2021.

To quote Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebellius:

Children are strongly influenced by the foods they see advertised on television and elsewhere. Creating a food marketing environment that supports, rather than undermines, the efforts of parents to encourage healthy eating among children will have a significant impact on reducing the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic… These new Principles will help food and beverage companies use their creativity and resources to strengthen parents’ efforts to encourage their children to make healthy choices.

FTC chairman — and pal of Consumerist — Jon Leibowitz credited a number of biggies in the food and beverage biz with being proactive about changing how they market and what ingredients they use.

“Some of the leading companies are already reformulating products and rethinking marketing strategies to promote healthier foods to kids,” he said. “But we all have more work to do before we can tip the scales to a healthier generation of children… This proposal encourages all food marketers to expand voluntary efforts to reduce kids’ waistlines.”

Interagency Working Group Seeks Input on Proposed Voluntary Principles for Marketing Food to Children [FTC.gov]