Here's some food for thought: Did you know that the food industry spent more than $1.6 billion in 2006 alone to market messages to kids, promoting foods that often are high in calories and low in nutrition? Kids see ads for food on television, the Internet, social media, video games, movies, sports and music events, in-store displays and packaging, and even in school. Yet there are few guidelines on what industry can and can't say when they advertise their foods to kids.
Congress has made an effort to address this concern with an interagency panel — comprised on the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Agriculture — tasked with developing nutrition standards that food and beverages should meet before they are marketed to children. The panel's preliminary report is available, and the group is accepting public comments through July 14.
Basically, the group's 26-page report comes down to this recommendation:
By the year 2016, all food products within the categories most heavily marketed directly to children and adolescents ages 2-17 should meet two basic nutrition principles — they should contain foods that make a "meaningful contribution to a healthful diet" (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean protein, eggs, nuts and seeds, or beans) and they should limit nutrients with a negative impact on health or weight (saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars and sodium.)
That doesn't seem like too much to ask, does it?
As expected, the food industry is fighting the development of these standards — even though they would be voluntary — tooth-and-nail. Advertising executives for the food industry have suggested that such guidelines would cost the U.S. 75,000 jobs annually. David Vladeck, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection and the Federal Trade Commission, was so disturbed by the misinformation presented by food industry lobbyists regarding these proposals that he wrote a blog post to address the 12 "myths" regarding the proposed guidelines.
My favorite line from his post: "Frankly, these folks might want to switch to decaf."
What do you think? Should the food industry follow certain guidelines when marketing food to kids?