On April 28, the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children released the “Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulatory Efforts.” The Working Group consists of representatives from several agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the United States Department of Agriculture. The Working Group aims to provide uniform nutritional and marketing principles that will promote children’s health while reducing obesity.
Despite its legitimate goal, the proposal sets overly ambitious standards that will be challenging for the industry to meet, especially due to the definitions regarding what activities by food companies constitute “marketing.” The proposal would ban various forms of marketing to children and adolescents for virtually all foods. And it would reach marketing activities not directed toward children – such as using endorsements by celebrities or athletes who are popular with children or using words like “child” or “kid” on packaged foods. The proposal would also ban advertising/promotion on an Internet site with a 20% share of viewers being adolescents or children. This would have a devastating effect on social media sites.
The effect will be felt far beyond the food industry, including on business partners and promotion partners of food companies; in addition, the proposal sets a very dangerous precedent of what constitutes “marketing to kids” and an even more troubling precedent in its move to restrict commercial speech through nominally “voluntary guidelines” backed up by four powerful governmental agencies.
PMA will comment to the FTC on the proposed rules and is engaged in numerous other steps, both with a coalition of other concerned entities, and independently, to help protect the industry.
These rules and the subject of marketing to children will be extensively covered at the PMA Marketing Law Conference, November 15-16, 2011 in Chicago. For more information on the conference, click here.