Q & A

Question:

Last year, policy makers were talking about making some improvements to the voluntary marketing guidelines for food companies. What was the industry reaction and what’s happened with those policies?

answer

Juliet

In 2009, Congress commissioned an Interagency Working Group  (IWG)–comprised of the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and the United States Department of Agriculture—to draft a proposal laying out voluntary guidelines for foods marketed to kids. The proposed recommendations were released for comment last April, and today, this effort to safeguard kids’ health against harmful marketing practices has been effectively defeated. Food and beverage companies wasted absolutely no time in pushing back on these guidelines. They spent over $51 million lobbying in 2011, released a report claiming these guidelines would eliminate jobs, and issued white papers (falsely) claiming the guidelines violate the First Amendment. The IWG eventually bowed to industry pressure, and the guidelines were never released.

Featured voice: Juliet Sims, Prevention Institute

answer
Question:

Are kids in other countries exposed to this much junk food advertising? What are laws in other industrialized countries and is there evidence this is improving children’s diets?

answer

Juliet

Over 30 countries have limits or outright bans on television advertising to children, and several others—including Belgium, Portugal, and Canada—prohibit marketing in schools. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has a great fact sheet on food marketing in other countries. The World Health Organization has put forth broad recommendations on food marketing to children that acknowledge the harmful impact junk food marketing is having on childrens’ health.

 

Featured voice: Juliet Sims, Prevention Institute

answer
Question:

Healthy food advocates criticize how pervasive junk food advertising is—but doesn’t advertising encourage competition? And isn’t it the right of any company to share with consumers details about what they sell?

answer

Juliet

Companies should not have carte blanche to sell products that make us ill, and governments have a right to put restrictions on products that harm health (the public health successes that resulted from regulations on tobacco, alcohol, and lead in paint affirm this point). An ever-growing body of evidence links foods high in fat, sugar, and sodium, along with sugar-sweetened beverages, to chronic disease. The extent to which companies advertise explicitly and directly to children is cause for concern. Young kids do not understand the difference between televisions advertising and programming. They simply cannot effectively comprehend the persuasive intent of marketing messages, and food and beverage companies are capitalizing on this opportunity to build brand loyalty at a very early age. Not only do companies market their products aggressively to kids, they also market them deceptively to adults making food purchases. In our recent study Claiming Health, we investigated the nutritional content of food marketed directly to kids. Despite bearing labels on their packages that indicated the product was a healthier choice, 8 out of 10 of the foods we studied failed to meet even modest nutrition criteria for sugar, fat, salt, or fiber. Food companies can—and should—do better.

Featured voice: Juliet Sims, Prevention Institute

answer
Question:

Kale, broccoli, Brussel sprouts—they might be good for you, but do kids really want to eat this stuff?

answer

JulietCartoon characters, celebrities, commercials that run on their favorite TV shows, and toys in Happy Meals all entice kids to eat their associated products. Ninety-eight percent of food advertisements viewed by children are for products high in fat, sugar, or sodium, so it’s no surprise that kids demand these foods more frequently. One recent study affirmed the link between kid-focused advertising and, subsequently, kids’ food preferences: children were two times as likely to choose an apple over a cookie if the apple had an Elmo sticker on it. Another found that marketing makes food taste better. When children viewed enjoyable advertisements, ate a product wrapped in a McDonald’s wrapper, or with a licensed character like Spongebob Squarepants or Dora the Explorer, they ended up liking the taste of the food more.

Featured voice: Juliet Sims, Prevention Institute

answer
Question:

Those of us trying to encourage more healthy eating habits are often called “food nannies.” What do you say to the people who would consider you a card-carrying member of the food police?

answer

Juliet

According to the CDC, if current trends continue, 1 of 3 U.S. adults will have diabetes by 2050. By 2030, healthcare costs attributable to chronic disease – caused in part by poor diet — could be as high as $956 billion. That’s over 17 percent of total healthcare costs, or one in every six dollars spent on healthcare. Our nation is facing a serious health crisis, and we cannot afford to not take action. Industries should not have carte blanche to sell products that make us ill. Policies that regulate tobacco, seatbelts, and lead in paint have successfully built on this same principle of consumer protection. Quite simply, regulations—such as curbing junk food advertising or requiring smaller serving sizes—work. They make the healthier choice the default choice, and help ensure that the places where people live, work, play, and learn support their health, not harm it.

Featured voice: Juliet Sims, Prevention Institute

answer