For immediate release
Rob Waters, chief communications officer
Juliet Sims, food and nutrition program manager
Today, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued A Review of Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents: Follow-Up Report. An update to a 2008 study, today's report finds that food and beverage companies spent $1.79 billion in 2009 to promote their products to children and adolescents. While the new data shows a drop from the $2 billion in spending detailed in the 2008 report, it also shows a shift in advertising dollars away from traditional media towards web, mobile devices, and other digital media platforms. Such marketing practices can enable companies to bypass parents and communicate with kids in a more direct, interactive way while also reducing their costs and giving them a wider reach.
"Companies are still marketing junk food to kids and now they're doing it on their mobile phones and using cuddly characters and games to entice them," said Juliet Sims, a registered dietitian who is Prevention Institute's food and nutrition program manager. "Today's findings reinforce the urgent need for policies that protect children and families, and that means stronger government oversight of food and beverage marketing."
It has been seven years since the Institute of Medicine released its landmark report, Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity, which outlined the direct influence that food and beverage marketing has on children's diets and its negative impact on their health. Today's report shows that in spite of the evidence, little has been done to stem the tide of marketing to our children - the vast majority of which is for unhealthy food and beverages. Data from 2009 indicate that three-quarters of the food advertised to children is unhealthy.
In recent years, the biggest players in the food and beverage industry have mounted an intense lobbying campaign aimed at neutralizing any efforts to rein in their marketing practices. The latest example was industry's success in derailing a proposed set of evidence-based nutrition guidelines that companies could have adopted on a voluntary basis.
"The current system puts the onus on parents to shield their kids," Sims said. "But when food and beverage marketers have access to children in schools, in stores, on television, and increasingly on the Internet, parents have the odds stacked against them. Policy change is needed to limit the reach of junk food marketing and shift the balance in the right direction. Parents can't do it all alone."