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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is proposing that food and drug manufacturers should voluntarily scale back their advertising of “junk food” to children, saying that “relentless marketing is contributing to rising rates of obesity among young people.” CSPI also is asking that companies “scale back the use of marketing techniques pairing unhealthy food with popular cartoon characters, movies, and other images that children enjoy but critics say undermine the ability of parents to monitor what kids eat.”

Ideally, CSPI suggests, “only healthful foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole-grain products would be marketed to kids.”

The CSPI proposal is not for federal guidelines, but rather for voluntary moves by manufacturers, though it did call on media companies not to accept kid-targeted advertising for products that do not meet certain nutritional standards. The center suggests that companies market drinks that contain at least 50% fruit juice and no added caloric sweeteners, water and seltzer without added caloric sweeteners, and low-fat and fat-free milk, including flavored milks. Foods targeted to kids, according to CSPI, should have less than 30% of total calories from fat (excluding fat from nuts, seeds, and peanut or other nut butters), less than 10% of calories from saturated plus hydrogenated fat, less than 25% of calories from added sugars, no more than 150 milligrams of sodium per serving of snack items; no more than 480 milligrams per serving for soups, pastas, meats, and main dishes; and no more than 600 milligrams for meals.

Almost as fast as CSPI made its recommendations, the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) shot back with the following statement:

“Food and beverage manufacturers are committed to responsible marketing, especially when it comes to children. We have an important role to play in addressing obesity, and we are doing our part by introducing a growing number of ‘better-for-you’ foods, offering a variety of smaller package sizes and supporting enhanced nutrition labeling.

“There is no question that obesity is a serious societal issue with major health implications, but by narrowly focusing on advertising and marketing, CSPI misses the point. Effective solutions must incorporate sound nutrition, increased physical activity, consumer and parent education, and community support. Above all, the focus should be on giving parents the information they need to ensure their children eat a nutritionally-balanced diet and get the right amount of physical activity.”
KC's View:
We agree that ultimately, the decision-making is up to the parent, not the manufacturer. But we have a sense that the consumer mood in this country may be heading toward some sort of regulation of what can be marketed to kids and how it can be marketed…and we’re not sure that manufacturers wouldn’t be better off pre-empting regulation with some sort of voluntary move.