Institute of Medicine Reports on Food Marketing Aimed at Kids
Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo Wootan
December 6, 2005
The Institute of Medicine's report on food marketing to children is a milestone that marks the beginning of the end of junk-food marketing to kids. The report sends a clear signal to food company executives and advertisers that the industry needs to completely rethink the way they do business. And lawmakers should look at the IOM report as a roadmap to help improve kids' diets and address childhood obesity. Getting junk food out of schools, promoting fruits and vegetables, putting nutrition info on chain restaurant menus, and scrutinizing food ads on children's television programming are four things Congress could consider right now to advance the IOM's recommendations.
The IOM report really confirms what most parents know to be true from personal experience: Food advertising aimed at kids works. It changes kids' preferences. And since the foods that are advertised are mostly high in calories and low in nutrition, the net effect is less healthy children. We call on food companies to set meaningful industry-wide nutrition standards for which foods are appropriate to market to kids in the first place. One company, Kraft, has made some voluntary moves in the right direction. But most food companies are still using SpongeBob, toy give-aways, and slick advertising to entice toddlers and young kids to consume products that are rarely much more than some mix of sugar, salt, white flour, fat, and food dye.
It has been nearly a quarter century since the Federal Trade Commission sent shivers up the spine of the food and broadcast industries, when it suggested a ban on junk-food ads aimed at kids. Since that effort died, advertisers have only become more sophisticated in the ways they get kids to demand junk food. We hope Congress, at long last, weighs the compelling scientific evidence on food marketing and kids' health and comes to the same conclusions as the Institute of Medicine.