WASHINGTON - December 6 -
Comments of Susan Linn, co-founder of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Michele Simon, director of the Center for Informed Food Choices, on The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies’ report, Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity?
The IOM.’s conclusions are a powerful indictment of the food industry and its current practice of targeting children with unfair and deceptive marketing. Their findings leave no doubt that food marketing influences children’s food choices. In addition, the report documents that the marketing industry’s move away from traditional commercials to far more insidious techniques belie recent industry claims that food marketing to children is decreasing.
While I applaud the Committee’s recommendation that food companies stop using TV characters to market unhealthy food to children, it is disappointing that they stopped short of recommending the prohibition of junk food marketing to children. Self-regulation has clearly failed.
Given the Committee’s findings and the epidemic of childhood obesity, merely threatening the food industry with regulation at some future date is not enough. Children and families need immediate relief from the barrage of food marketing. There is no reason to believe that the food industry, which has already dismissed the Committee’s important findings, will stop on its own.
Remarks of Michele Simon, JD, MPH, director of Center for Informed Food Choices
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The IOM committee’s recommendations place too much emphasis on promoting healthy food and not enough on addressing the ongoing problem of junk food marketing to kids by greedy corporations such as Kraft, Coke, and McDonald’s. The committee’s recommendation that food companies “develop and promote healthier products” is a recipe for disaster. We should not rely on the processed food industry to reformulate its products because healthy food comes from nature, not in a Lunchables box. Likewise, the committee’s call for tighter industry controls over its own marketing practices is doomed to failure. The IOM recommends government action, but only after a two-year assessment of industry progress. We already know that self-regulation has failed and there is no time to lose for regulatory action. Until the federal government gets serious about reigning in corporate exploitation of children, all the reports and recommendations in the world won’t make much difference, while rates of childhood obesity and diabetes will continue to climb.