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The New York Times reports that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a report yesterday “detailing the pervasiveness of food marketing to children,” saying that “food companies had spent $1.6 billion to market their products to children and teenagers in 2006,” expenditures that contributed to the nation’s burgeoning childhood obesity rate.

However, an industry coalition called the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative responded by issuing its own report showing that self-regulation rather than legislation was the best way to battle childhood obesity. While the FTC credited the industry group for making progress, the Times notes that one government concern is “the lack of industry wide definitions on what advertising to children entailed and on what ‘better’ food meant.”

According to the Wall Street Journal story on the subject, “While the commission noted that most major food marketers have made significant strides to create healthier products and promote good nutrition, it said the industry still has a long way to go. Beverage and fast-food marketers in particular will likely face some of the harshest scrutiny going forward, as the two sectors represent some of the biggest ad spenders targeting kids, analysts say.

“In a separate statement, FTC Commissioner Jon Leibowitz said there needs to be a better way of figuring out which shows children are watching. While much of the outcry until now has been directed at shows on youth-focused networks such as Nickelodeon, he says other shows also have significant youth viewership’s,” such as “American Idol.”
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