'Self-Regulation' of Food Marketing is More Like Self-Preservation, Says CSPI

Statement of CSPI Nutrition Policy Director Margo G. Wootan


There's no doubt that the current self-regulatory scheme set up by the food industry fails to protect kids from billions of dollars worth of advertising and marketing of low-nutrition foods. The industry's guidelines are agnostic on the subject of nutrition, when they should have basic nutrition thresholds for which foods are appropriate to market to kids in the first place. Often, when complaints are brought at the Children's Advertising Review Unit, the eventual enforcement actions just nibble around the edges of the problem. When you have a system where the judge is hired and paid for by the judged, you have a system that's more self-preservation than self-regulation.

The steps that Kraft, Nickelodeon and PepsiCo are beginning to take are encouraging, but the industry needs to do so much more. Responsible food marketing would support, rather than undermine, parental authority and responsibility. Parents are drowned out by sophisticated marketing for junk foods. If industry wanted to forestall legislation that would restore the Federal Trade Commission's authority to regulate advertising and marketing aimed at kids, the industry would strengthen CARU, as recommended in CSPI's Guidelines for Responsible Food Marketing. Industry should develop nutrition standards for foods advertised and marketed to kids. Those standards should be implemented for the marketing that takes place in schools, on packaging and television ads, on advergames and the Internet, and in product placements on kid-oriented movies and television shows.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at] or Ariana Stone (astone[at]