|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
JANUARY 6, 2005
|CONTACT: Center for Science in the Public Interest
Guidelines for Marketing Food to Kids Proposed
CSPI Calls for Nutrition Standards and Curbs on TV Advertising, Movie Tie-Ins, School-based Marketing and Other Tactics for Selling Junk Food to Children
WASHINGTON -- January 6 -- The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) today released new Guidelines for Responsible Food Marketing to Children, which call on food manufacturers, broadcasters, restaurants, movie studios, and schools to reform the way drinks, snacks, fast-food meals, and other foods are marketed to kids. The Guidelines propose curbing certain marketing techniques but unlike the food industry's self-imposed guidelines, CSPI is proposing basic nutritional thresholds for determining which foods should be marketed to kids in the first place. The Guidelines were developed with input from experts from academia, government, and industry.
Each day, children receive about 58 commercial messages from television alone, about half of which are for food. According to CSPI, much of that advertising is for high-calorie or low-nutrition foods and undermines parents' efforts to provide healthful diets for their kids. While a number of factors affect children's food choices, studies show that food marketing attracts kids' attention and affects their food preferences and choices. The amount of marketing aimed at kids has doubled in the last 10 years from $7 billion to $15 billion a year.
"Parents are outgunned by food companies and the toys, cartoon characters, celebrities, and psychological munition that food marketers have at their disposal," said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan. "Parents try to get their kids to eat bananas, broccoli, and whole wheat bread, but those messages get drowned out by marketing for French fries, cookies, and candy. What we're really asking is that marketers act responsibly, and not urge kids to eat foods that could harm their health."
Ideally, says CSPI, only healthful foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products would be marketed to kids. But CSPIs Guidelines would allow a much broader range of foods to be marketed to kids, as long as the food in question provides some positive nutritional benefit and isn't too high in saturated and trans fat, salt, or added sugars.
For instance, CSPI's Guidelines call on companies not to market low-nutrition drinks like soda, sports drinks, and sweetened ice tea to kids. Food companies could, though, market:
The Guidelines call for foods marketed to kids to be in reasonable portion sizes, to provide some basic nutrients, and to have:
The Guidelines would allow companies to use almost any marketing technique to market healthful foods to kids. But it also calls on companies not to use certain commonly used techniques to market low-nutrition foods to kids, including:
"No parent would allow a door-to-door salesman to come into the house and spend a few unsupervised minutes with the kids, yet junk-food manufacturers have similar unfettered access to kids' impressionable minds via advertising and marketing," said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. "Food manufacturers like to put all the blame on parents, but these companies go right around parents' backs, directly to kidsand sometimes directly to toddlerswith sales pitches for unhealthful foods."
Over the last 20 years, rates of obesity have doubled in children and tripled in teens. And, since most children's diets are too high in calories, saturated and trans fat, and sodium, one-quarter of kids between the ages of five and 10 have high blood pressure, elevated blood cholesterol levels, or other early warning signs for heart disease. Type 2 diabetes can no longer be called "adult onset" diabetes because of rising rates in children.
The last serious attempt to protect children from junk-food advertising was a quarter-century ago, when the Federal Trade Commission was investigating whether advertising aimed at kids was inherently unfair. Congress, in response to pressure from food manufacturers, broadcasters, and the advertising industry, quashed the FTC's effort to regulate such ads. Since then, advertising aimed at kids has been largely unregulated, but for the industrys own self-regulatory body, the Childrens Advertising Review Unit (CARU), a division of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. The group is funded by regulated companies, and seeks to "preserve their freedom" to advertise to kids.
Today CSPI sent its Guidelines to officials at major food companies, chain restaurants, television networks, television stations in the 50 largest markets, movie studios, supermarkets, and children's magazines and urged them to comply on a voluntary basis.
"For far too long, food manufacturers, fast-food restaurants, and media conglomerates have been profiting by pushing obesity- and disease-causing junk foods to kids," Wootan said. "It's time for them to clean up their act."