GROUP CALLS FOR BAN ON HIGH-FAT FOOD ADVERTISING

Charges Food Companies With 'Marketing Obesity to Children'

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- As it issued a report today condemning marketers of high-fat foods, the Center for Science in the Public Interest also called for a ban on high-fat food advertising aimed at children.

The nutritional advocacy group charged

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that U.S. food marketers use "aggressive and sophisticated marketing techniques" to influence children's food choice toward high-fat products.

'Pestering Parents'
In the report, titled "Pestering parents: How food companies market obesity to children," the consumer group, which has been frequently critical of marketers, urged governments and schools to restrict the marketing of high-fat foods on TV, in magazines, in schools and online.

Advertising and industry associations were quick to reject the idea, saying an ad ban was unconstitutional. Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers, said a "ban on speech will not solve the obesity problem."

The report specifically mentioned the activities of Channel One, Kraft, Campbell's Soup, Pizza Hut, Krispy-Kreme and Pepsi-Cola, among others. It also claimed that the advertising industry's own self-regulation wasn't sufficient and wasn't getting the job done.

"It is incumbent upon society to foster healthy eating habits and to protect children from the influence of those who stand to profit from increasing their consumption of fatty, sugary, salty, high-calorie or low nutrition snacks," said the report, which also asks that Congress fund an aggressive advertising effort from the Centers for Disease Control to promote health eating and physical activity.

Requesting FTC authority
The report urges Congress give the Federal Trade Commission authority "to develop and implement nutrition standards for foods that can be advertised and marketed to children and limit advertising and marketing for foods that do not meet these standards."

Grocery interests disagreed. "There is no question that obesity is a serious societal issue, but by narrowly focusing on advertising and marketing, CSPI misses the point," the Grocery Manufacturers of America said in a statement. "Food and beverage manufacturers are committed to responsible advertising, especially when it comes to children. We have an important role to play in addressing obesity, and we are doing our part by introducing a growing number of nutritious foods, reducing portion sizes and supporting enhanced nutrition labeling."

Jim Guthrie, president of the National Advertising Review Council, which handles self-regulation of ad claims for the advertising industry and the Council of Business Bureaus, also rejected the claim that self-regulation wasn't working. He said the CSPI's findings underreported the number of food-related cases handled by the Children Advertising Review Unit.

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