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FTC demands junk food companies disclose money spent marketing to children

Wednesday, October 25, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: junk foods, junk food marketing, junk food advertising


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(NewsTarget) The Federal Trade Commission has announced that it may soon require food and beverage manufacturers to release detailed information on their expenditures for marketing to children and adolescents.

Before the demand can be made of firms, the FTC must subject the proposal to public comments, the deadline for which is Dec. 21. The comments are designed to help the commission prepare the Food Industry Marketing to Children Report, an analysis of commercial advertising time, the types of foods the companies market to children and teens, the media techniques used, and the amount spent. The FTC solicited these comments once before in March, but said that the comments received did not provide sufficient data.

The analysis will cover ads on television, radio and in print, as well as in-store marketing; payment for preferential product placement on shelves; promotional events, all internet activities; and product placement in visual media such as TV shows, movies and video games.

Currently, the FTC plans to send the requests to about 50 major companies in the United States that make things like breakfast cereal, snacks, candy, sodas and other beverages, ready-made meals and desserts, and dairy products. The requests will also be sent to marketers of fruit and vegetables to determine how much effort is made to promote the foods' consumption among children and adolescents.

The information will be exempt from the Freedom of Information act, the FTC said, and all collected information will be kept confidential and will not identify specific company data on the report.

Experts say that the food industry has taken considerable steps toward making healthier foods and promoting them, but most foods are still high in sugar, fat and/or salt, and stripped of nutrients, and companies are increasingly utilizing television advertising to market their products to children and adolescents.

A July study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that eight of the 10 top food brands in the world now appeal to children through internet marketing, noting that web sites such as those belonging to Kellogg's, Wrigley's, General Mills, PepsiCo and Nestle encouraged children to interact with their brands on a more personal level than conventional ads.

"The food and beverage industries use psychologically optimized influence tactics to prey upon impressionable young children," said Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate and author of "Grocery Warning." "Just as Big Tobacco realized that hooking children was the best way to recruit a lifelong customer, junk food and soda companies also know that exposing young children to refined sugars, extreme tastes and excitotoxins at a very early age greatly increases the chance that they will become lifelong consumers of their manufactured food and beverage products."

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