by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: FTC (Federal Trade Commission)

Nov 13 2009

FTC looks at marketing to children

Thanks to Margo Wootan of CSPI for sending me the text of a speech by David Vladeck, the new director of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Bureau of Consumer Protection, in which he discusses his agency’s priorities.  One of these is marketing to children.

And about time too.  The last time the FTC wanted to restrict advertising to kids was in 1978.  Then, Congress ridiculed the agency (What?  Restrict free speech?  Horrors!), and promptly passed a law preventing the FTC from taking action.  The head of the FTC, Mike Pertschuk, was fired and that was that (see Giant Killers, for his version of what happened).

Well, times have changed.  Kids are a lot fatter.  Trying to stop relentless food marketing aimed at children now seems like a pretty good idea.  Can’t wait!

Mar 22 2009

Food marketing: cartoons, scholarship, and action

First, the cartoons: this week’s question from Eating Liberally’s kat has to do with whether it makes sense to put cartoon characters on eggs or, for that matter, fruits and vegetables.  I vote no, of course, and the illustrations alone explain why.

Next, the scholarship: The latest volume of Annual Reviews of Public Health contains excellent reviews of studies of the influence of the food marketing environment on child and adult health.

Sara Bleich et al explain why obesity has become so common in the developed world.

Kelly Brownell’s group reviews the effects of food marketing on childhood obesity.

David Katz discusses school-based obesity interventions.

Mary Story et al describe policy approaches to creating healthy food environments.

And the American Association of Wine Economists (a group new to me, but interesting) forwards its Working Paper #33:

Janet Currie et al on the effect of fast food restaurants on obesity.

Finally, the action: Perhaps in response to all this, language inserted into the congressional spending bill asks the Federal Trade Commission to set up an interagency committee to set nutritional standards for products allowed to be marketed to children age 17 or under.  According to Advertising Age, the food industry thinks this is not a good idea.

Jul 31 2008

The FTC number: $1.6 billion to market to kids

The FTC has released its new report on food marketing to kids.  The big news?  The food industry only spends $1.6 billion for this purpose, a figure nobody I know believes.  The FTC had to subpoena this information and I’m sure that companies gave the lowest number they could.  Kellogg may spend $32 million just for media advertising for Cheez-Its, but I’m sure it’s hard for the company to figure out how much of that goes for packages with cartoons on them.  The FTC press release compliments food companies for all the great things they are doing to protect kids from what they used to do.  It makes recommendations that begin with words like “work toward,” “encourage,” “continue,” and “consider,” but nothing much that says “stop!”  I think $1.6 billion is likely to be an underestimate but it doesn’t really matter.  The number should be zero, no?

Jul 28 2008

FTC food marketing report–Tuesday!

Thanks to Michele Simon for the heads up on the Federal Trade Commission’s new report on how much the food industry spends on marketing to kids.  The FTC is releasing the report Tuesday at 11:00 a.m.  I can’t wait to see what it says.  View the webcast!

May 20 2008

The Washington Post’s series on childhood obesity

My mailbox is flooded this week with notices about the Washington Post’s front-page series on childhood obesity, in so many parts that it’s hard to keep up with. The series will run all week, apparently. Here’s are the starter links for the multiple stories on Sunday, May 18, for those on Monday, May 19, and for those on Tuesday, May 20. I’ll add the others later, but you have to scroll around to find all the parts. One, well hidden, was sent to me by Mike Pertschuk, who was the head of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 1978 when it tried to regulate food marketing to kids. One reason his efforts failed was opposition from the Washington Post. Here is its 1978 editorial ridiculing the FTC for even suggesting that food marketing might have something to do with childhood obesity. Times have changed and let’s hope the FTC has another chance to deal with this question.

Here’s the link to Wednesday, May 21And the one to Thursday, May 22.

Sep 3 2007

FTC Wants Info From These Companies!

Margo Wootan from Center for Science in the Public Interest and Lori Dorfman from the Berkeley Media Studies Group send the latest request from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC is asking food companies to say how much money they spend on marketing to kids and for a bunch of other information. And now here is the list of companies that have to provide that information. What is so interesting about this list is that it is not only aimed at Kraft, PepsiCo, and other such makers of junk foods but also at Boskovich, Grimmway, and other vegetable companies that put SpongeBob SquarePants and other such cartoon characters on their product labels. It will be interesting to see how much money goes into marketing carrots as compared to breakfast cereals or junky snack foods. Stay tuned.

Aug 17 2007

Whole Foods Scores a Win

Despite the efforts of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to block purchase of Wild Oats stores by Whole Foods on anti-trust grounds, a federal judge is allowing the merger to go through. As reported in today’s New York Times, Whole Foods believes that it needs the purchase to keep the company competitive. If Whole Foods’ competitiveness seems distasteful and inappropriate to its stated mission (as reportedly documented in FTC filings and reports of its CEO’s sometimes covert bloggings) , consider that it is a publicly traded company. Like all such companies, its primary responsibility it to stockholders and that means that it not only must make profits, but must grow and report growth to Wall Street every 90 days, or else. Shares of Whole Foods stocks rose yesterday by $3.33 so Wall Street thinks it’s doing something right. And you?

Aug 13 2007

FTC Demands Company Info on Marketing to Kids

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency that regulates food advertising, has just ordered a large group of food companies that make junk foods targeted to children to reveal how much money they are spending on advertising each of their products in general and to children, minorities, and other target groups. The FTC wants specific information about expenditures on marketing through traditional as well as modern kid-friendly channels: TV, radio, and print media, but also company-sponsored and other Internet sites, movie theaters, video games, in-store promotions, premium distributions, product placements, character licensing, sports sponsorships, word-of-mouth and “viral” campaigns, in-school, celebrity endorsements, and philanthropy, among others.

This is an astonishing action by the FTC, an agency that usually promotes food marketing and protects companies’ rights to do so. The last time the FTC tried to do something about the marketing of junk foods to kids–just on television–was in 1979. Then, Congress intervened, fired the head of the FTC, and passed a law allowing such marketing to continue. Well, times have changed in the intervening decades. Even little kids are now overweight and developing type 2 diabetes, reason enough to try to address the problem. At the end of 2005, the Institute of Medicine’s committee examining food marketing to kids complained that companies would not give it “proprietary” information about advertising expenditures or sales. So let’s give the FTC lots of credit for demanding this information and for considering how to put some curbs on the unchecked greed of companies pushing junk foods to kids.

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