Advertisers fight back on proposed rules

Advertisers and food and beverage industry officials called the government's new guidelines for advertising directed toward children a "reckless" maneuver in light of today's fragile economy, reports the Chicago Tribune.


The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), along with three other federal agencies, developed a strategy to target childhood obesity, and guidelines in April calling on advertisers to encourage children to choose healthy foods and to limit the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars and sodium in food marketed to children.


On Friday, industry officials pushed back, saying the guidelines would eliminate virtually all advertising presently directed toward kids under the age of 18. Only 12 of the 100 most consumed foods in the U.S. would meet the FTC's criteria, said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers.


Although the FTC and nutrition advocates note the guidelines are voluntary, food companies will be under pressure to follow them. In 1980, Congress stripped the FTC of its rulemaking authority to police junk ads directed toward kids, said Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). "Far from banning the Easter bunny, as the industry's fear-mongering goes, the Interagency Working Group-at the instruction of Congress-simply proposed a voluntary set of nutrition standards that food companies could (or could not) adopt as part of their existing self-regulatory program," Wootan said in a statement. "It's a shame the industry is using such overheated rhetoric to fight reasonable, voluntary nutrition guidelines aimed at reducing kids' risk of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases." And while companies have agreed to self-regulation on food marketing, it's hardly working - "junk" still accounts for 80 percent of food ads targeted toward kids, Wootan said later in an interview.


If advertising takes as big a hit as industry officials expect, 74,000 jobs could be lost in 2011, said Mike Raimondi, vice president of IHS Global Insight, and between 2011 and 2015, lost sales in the food and beverage supply chain would amount to $152 billion.