Food Companies’ Marketing Commitments a Positive Development
Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan
July 18, 2007That a number of major food companies are setting some basic nutrition standards for the foods they advertise to children is a positive and historic development. It will shield the youngest of kids from the least healthful of these companies’ products on television, kids’ magazines, and the Internet.
Kraft deserves a large share of credit for, in 2005, being the first company to announce a comprehensive policy on food marketing aimed at children. Last month Kellogg adopted a strong policy, a product of the settlement agreement we negotiated with the company. Notably, its policy prohibits the use of licensed characters on packages of foods that don’t meet their nutrition standards. Though the policies announced today will reduce the use of licensed characters on advertisements, many will still use these kid-friendly characters on packaging, and that’s a problem.
Hershey, Mars, and Coke have long abstained from advertising any products to audiences largely made up of kids under 12, but they should join Kraft and General Mills, and agree not to market unhealthful food to children in middle and high schools. Coke and Pepsi in particular could signal their commitment to kids’ health by agreeing to support the school foods bill sponsored by Senators Tom Harkin, Lisa Murkowski, and others.
It is worth noting that Burger King, ConAgra, Nestle, and Chuck E. Cheese's all advertise unhealthy foods to young children. Those companies’ conspicuous absence from this initiative points to the need for much stricter scrutiny of junk food marketing aimed at kids on the part of the Federal Trade Commission and Congress.
And broadcasters and entertainment companies shouldn’t rely exclusively on the voluntary policies of food companies. Nickelodeon and others shouldn’t license their cartoon characters to, or accept television advertisements for, foods that promote obesity and other health problems in children. Any company that does do so certainly runs the risk of lawsuits from angry parents.