Memo from MFJ

Doing Right by Kids

June 2011

  • Print

It has taken 30 years, but the government has finally decided that it’s time to protect children from companies that try to sell them junk food.

In April, the government proposed volunutary limits on foods advertised to kids.

Back in the late 1970s, the Federal Trade Commission suggested a ban on all advertising, not just food advertising, that was directed to young children. (A petition from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, publisher of Nutrition Action, and another consumer group triggered that proposal.)

The FTC argued that advertising to young children is unfair because kids don’t understand what ads are and can easily be hoodwinked.

Sadly, the food, toy, broadcasting, and advertising industries convinced Congress to repeal much of the FTC’s authority to regulate advertising to children, which still hampers the FTC today.

As Congress looked the other way for 30 years, an obesity time bomb exploded. The percentage of young children and teenagers who are overweight or obese has tripled.

That alarming increase has led many to question the wisdom of exposing unsophisticated youngsters to sophisticated advertising for pizzas, hamburger-and-fries meals, sugary drinks, and the like. Michelle Obama’s passion to improve children’s diets and health helped put the issue on the front burner.

The proposed voluntary guidelines would limit unhealthy fats, sodium, and added sugars in foods advertised to children under 18. Advertised foods would also have to include some fruit, vegetables, extra-lean meat or poultry, or other healthful ingredients.

The advertising industry immediately charged that the guidelines were “overly restrictive” and “sufficiently onerous that they would basically block a substantial amount of advertising.” I hope so!

If the proposal is finalized, we’ll see dramatic reductions in ads for unhealthy foods on children’s TV shows and Internet sites. Though the guidelines are voluntary, they would still pressure advertisers to clean up their act.

June 13 is the deadline for the public to comment on the proposal. You can bet that the food industry will weigh in big time.

To voice your views, write to FTC Project No. P094513, FTC, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex W), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Or file a comment at

Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Center for Science in the Public Interest

Blog Blog Blog…

Look for Michael Jacobson's column on the Huffington Post.

Smartphones Get Smarter

The Center for Science in the Public Interest has released its first app for iPhones and Android-based smartphones. “Chemical Cuisine” provides the latest information about all the common food additives, and rates their risks to the entire population or vulnerable groups. One reviewer, AndroidGuys, said, “give yourself a real wake-up call with Chemical Cuisine.” Download the app for just 99 cents from iTunes or the Android Market.

The contents of NAH are not intended to provide medical advice, which should be obtained from a qualified health professional. The use of information from Nutrition Action Healthletter for commercial purposes is prohibited without written permission from CSPI.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is the nonprofit health-advocacy group that publishes Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI mounts educational programs and presses for changes in government and corporate policies.

Download This Article

This article is reprinted from the June issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter. To view the full content click below.

Download Now

Request permission to reuse content

The use of information from this site for commercial purposes is strictly prohibited without written permission from CSPI.