Proposed Guidelines for Marketing Food to Kids: What Do You Think?


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  78 comments   :  15,141 Views

Last month the US government released new guidelines that crack down on how the food industry can market products to children. The new, voluntary guidelines ask for healthier alternatives to be touted, while halting marketing of sugary cereals and other unhealthy snacks. If instituted, the guidelines would be phased in over five years. They are meant to encourage parents' efforts to get kids to eat better, rather than undermine them by promoting unhealthy foods.

What this could mean is no more Count Chocula, Toucan Sam or Tony the Tiger--if food companies voluntarily follow the guidelines--and no more advertising junk foods to kids unless companies reduce the amount of unhealthy ingredients.

So just what are they recommending? Good question. Let's take a look at the recommendations:

An interagency group (the Federal Trade Commission, together with the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture), which was formed at the urging of Congress two years ago, drafted the recommendations, and the FTC is asking the public to comment. A forum to discuss the proposal will take place on Tuesday, May 24 in Washington, D.C. Details pending. (The link to comment electronically is hard to find within the 27-page document, so I've pulled it out for you here.)

Principle A: Meaningful Contribution to a Healthful Diet
Foods marketed to children should provide a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet, with contributions from at least one of the following food groups:
  • fruit

  • vegetable

  • whole grain

  • fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk products

  • fish

  • extra lean meat or poultry

  • eggs

  • nuts and seeds

  • beans

Principle B: Nutrients with Negative Impact on Health or Weight
Foods marketed to children should be formulated to minimize the content of nutrients that could have a negative impact on health or weight. With the exception of nutrients naturally occurring in food contributions under Principle A (for example, the saturated fat and sodium naturally occurring in low-fat milk would not be counted), foods marketed to children should not contain more than the following amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and sodium.
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g or less per RACC and 15% or less of calories

  • Trans Fat: 0 g per RACC

  • Added Sugars: No more than 13 g of added sugars per RACC

  • Sodium: No more than 210 mg per serving

Interesting facts from the proposal:
  • Cookies and cakes, pizza, and soda/energy/sports drinks are the top sources of calories in the diets of children 2 through 18. Chips and french fries comprise half of all the vegetables kids eat.

  • The food industry spent more than $1.6 billion in 2006 alone to market messages to kids promoting foods that often are high in calories and low in nutrition. Their campaigns use television, the internet, social media, video games, movies, sports and music events, in-store displays and packaging, and even schools.

  • Recent surveys show that childhood obesity has become parents' number one health concern – ahead of smoking and drug abuse — and that parents consider "TV ads promoting junk food" to be a big part of the problem.

The food industry called them "overly restrictive"; food reform activists are split. Journalist Mark Bittman says the guidelines won't help because they're not enough, while nutrition professor and author Marion Nestle says they're great news (though she says she would much prefer a complete ban on marketing food to children).

What do you think? Is this enough? What should be changed? Should these recommendations be regulations that are mandated by the government? In addition to commenting below, be sure to share your opinions with the decisionmakers. (Click here to share your opinions!)

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
NEXT ENTRY >   Post-Workout Tricks: Your Makeup in 5 Minutes!


  • RAIDAN988
    Why put a regulation up that is only voluntary? If we know this is a major problem, shouldn't we be facing it head-on? Seems like a weak-solution to me and may even dumb down Parents' efforts if Parents are then going to start believing "My Govt. is taking care of it." - 5/12/2011   7:50:12 PM
    guidelines do need to be changed when ketchup and french fries count as vegetables in the school lunchroom diet. Images are powerful and the food industry uses marketing effectively to get kids to want the junk food, it could be used as effectively on healthier options but hasn't been yet. I also would like to see healthier foods offered at the same or a lower price. For example, soups or canned veggies with no added or less salt often are a higher price. It is hard to find coupons for fresh veggies. this is just a start, and I wish it went further. 13 grams of added sugar is a lot, and companies often put multiple types of sugar in a product so that no one sugar ingredient is at the front of the list (ingredients in order by quantity.) - 5/12/2011   7:49:51 PM
  • 26
    Parents should control what their children eat but unfortunately a lot of parents are lazy and worthless. Someone needs to make these regulations to protect children from their parents. So get over your "Big Brother" paranoia and start thinking about the kids.
    That being said any mom who "gives in" to their kids because it's frustrating/heartbreaking to see your kids whine for something, you have no business being a parent. For anyone who complains that the healthy food is too expensive you should have considered your financials before popping out kids. I hope that's the next thing on the governments list to regulate, who is and is not allowed to reproduce. Too many kids are growing up with out a chance. - 5/12/2011   7:41:12 PM
  • 25
    I am a grandmother now, but granddaughter lives with us and she is age 6. Her parents limit the amount of television she watches. At meals, she has some say in what she eats, but she has to at least try everything. Lately, she has started seeing how much happier I am now that I am getting healthier and she tells me that she wants to be like me. She will still eat sugary cereal if that is what her mom gives her, but she will also ask for a banana or yogurt if you give her a choice. It's all about the examples that we set. - 5/12/2011   6:53:37 PM
  • 24
    Let's face it, over a third of children in the US are overweight. Childhood obesity and type II diabetes are increasing exponentially. While there are a lot of parents that are mindful of what their children eat, a great many obviously don't. Regulations are necessary in this case. Why wouldn't you want more healthful foods being marketed to children??? The fact that potatoe chips and french fries are comprising the majority of "vegetable" intake of children is horrible! - 5/12/2011   6:46:28 PM
  • 23
    Everyone who keeps saying the parents should regulate not the govt. don't realize how "fun" it is to deal with a child bugging you for unhealthy food they just saw on TV. Its hard to say no to your child any time. It can be VERY frustrating to say no and listen to them wine and complain. - 5/12/2011   6:30:32 PM
  • 22
    I'm so tired of the slide into a nanny state!! If you don't want it, don't buy it! Parents should be making the food decisions in the home in the first place. We don't need to have the government regulating every single thing in our lives. - 5/12/2011   6:28:32 PM
  • 21
    True it will always be the parents responsibility, but this wouldn't really make the foods that are terrible disappear. The guidelines would encourage the companies to change their products, even if just slightly. So maybe instead of being straight sugar, these cereals would actually contain SOME nutrients. - 5/12/2011   5:49:33 PM
  • 20
    I agree with it. We don't allow these companies to market cigs to kids and junk food is just as dangerous. They can keep selling it but not be allowed to market it to kids. If they were forced to market to the parents we would see much healthier products. But I disagree with their list.. Low fat products are not healthy and especially so for kids who need those fats for brain development. For the love of all that is holy people need to stop associating healthy with low fat. - 5/12/2011   5:47:28 PM
  • 19
    How can you be against promoting only healthful foods to children?! I understand not wanting everything to be regulated, but I agree with GETFITCHICK108, advertisers run the show. Parents can model good behavior and they can make good purchases, but children are not always with parents. Children can choose unhealthy food at school and older children with their own pocket money can make food purchases at a local store or fast food mart. Children become adults, and these marketing messages stay with them, sometimes more effectively than the things the parents say. I can still sing most of the jingles from the sugary cereals I ate (or wanted to eat) as a kid, just saying! - 5/12/2011   4:37:32 PM
  • 18
    Marketing DOES work - I'm drinking a heck of a lot more water because of the "Crystal Geyser Please!" commercials.

    PARENTING works better. My mom rarely purchased junk food, so I never thought to even ASK her for the junk food. By the time I was exposed to the sugary cereals at camp, it was disgusting for me.

    Government, as much as it would like, cannot compensate for parenting. The food industry can advertise all it wants, but ultimately the decision to buy and encourage good habits (I was the 10 year old who asked for broccoli) rests with the parents. If the government really wants to help with the obesity epidemic, stop giving subsidies to corn farmers, and encourage more fruits/vegetables with subsidies instead of ad campaigns. - 5/12/2011   4:37:26 PM
  • 17
    It's clear and proven that advertising brain washes and conditions us and children are even more vulnerable to this. Healthier advertising would benefit everyone and not just the kids, it's really important. The question is, is the government trying to be big brother or is advertising already big brother? I think you'll find we already have a big brother and it's advertising which is far more subtle and manipulative. The government is just trying to do the right thing to help the kids, they have to do something don't they when there's an obesity epidemic? - 5/12/2011   4:14:01 PM
  • 16
    As usual, the best thing for them to do is MYOB!! Big Brother will be rationing out what they think we should eat, drink, wear, drive, live in, walk on, look at, hear and breathe, soon.. read 1984,, it is chilling to read this blog ... - 5/12/2011   4:12:32 PM
    Do we really need to be making more restrictions! It's the parents ultimate responsibility to determine what their kids are eating. If parents don't buy it, THEY WON'T MAKE IT! When are we going to stop blaming industry for our bad decisions???? - 5/12/2011   3:59:46 PM
  • 14
    Of course the responsibility should fall on the parent, but sometimes parents need help too. If kids have seen commercials for say, veggies, it reinforces the parents, who are asking them to eat that stuff. Plus, a lot of times parents are misinformed too, and if the kids are seeing the commericals for healthy food that awareness will make its way up to the parents. Let's face it, adults don't always know everything.

    One thing that frequently infuriates me is the misperception that healthy food is somehow more expensive than unhealthy food. Yesterday I was on my way back to the office after a meeting and I was hungry. I stopped at a 7-11, where my options were a banana for 69 cents, a bag of chips for 99 cents, a package of cookies for $1.59 and some kind of fried buffalo chicken roll up thing that was 2/$2.22. The least expensive option just happened to be the healthiest. And go to Starbucks and see what's more expensive -- a plain cup of coffee or the caramel mocha frappachino (or whatever). Also, one slice of pizza will just about always be cheaper than two. Yet, we're programmed to think that "healthy" means "expensive" or "inaccessible." I can't think of a better way to rectify that then by making ads for healthy food more prevalent in the media. - 5/12/2011   3:58:06 PM
    Interesting in theory...on the one hand, yes, parents are ultimately accountable for a great deal of what they're children are eating. And eating healther is one part of the wellness equation. I wonder what they'll do to promote physical activity. I wonder if they will come after the PC makers, game makers and the like for advertising to children???

    At the end of the day someone will be out of a job. *Sigh*

    We need reform all the way around. - 5/12/2011   3:51:45 PM
  • 12
    I heartily agree with mummyuk2... - 5/12/2011   3:35:18 PM
  • 11
    If the governement stopped subsidies to the Corn industry and started subsidizing organic foods the problem would start to solve itself through the increased cost of crap and reduced cost of healthy !!!! - 5/12/2011   3:26:56 PM
    Yeah I agree that it is good to promote healthy eating to kids, but I can't support them putting restrictions on the ads. It is ultimately the parent's responsiblity to make sure that your child is eating right, and encourage healthy eating...up to a certain age.

    Now on the opposite end of the spectrum, I also don't believe that a parent should be punished if their child is obese as a result of that child's decision making. I recall a story recently about a mother of an obese 13/14 year old and was facing legal trouble because people blamed her.

    I think there needs to be a happy medium. A parent needs to encourage healthy eating and offer those types of food until the child is old enough to make those types of decisions on their own. (which in my opinion would be around the beginning of the teenage years) Then the child needs to take responsiblity to make sure they are making right decisions. The parent should still encourage heatlhy choices and offer them, but I don't believe they should restrict unhealthy foods, as that will lead to resentment and the child will eat the junk food despite them. - 5/12/2011   3:24:36 PM
  • 9
    I think the regulations should be mandatory, not voluntary. They especially need to change the regulations on what is marketed and sold in schools. Public schools use revenue from fast food and soda companies to help fill funding gaps, but then the children have access to so many unhealthy options... and you know they will choose unhealthy over healthy most of the time (I know I did in school). I TOTALLY agree that it is the parent's responsibility to teach their kids and buy/feed them healthy options, but these marketing schemes place a lot of pressure on the parents because kids often will be relentless about getting what they see on TV. Not to mention, the parent can't control what they child will buy at school, which I think is the biggest problem. - 5/12/2011   3:19:18 PM
  • 8
    Our free market system really does work when allowed too. If everybody quits buying that stuff, they will quit trying to sell it to us. - 5/12/2011   3:16:55 PM
  • 7
    I don't think that we need the federal government regulating this. I'm not saying that there isn't an obesity problem, but what kids eat should be completely controlled by the adults in their life! As a parent, it is my responsibility to make healthy options that my kids will want to follow. I was kinda surprised when my kids started taking my FiberOne cereal and my granola, pleasantly so. But because they see me eating, they want to at least try it. The same went with mangos, which they all wanted to try but decided they didn't like. That's okay, too! At least they were willing to try it! And let's be real, here. Just because your child WANTS the unhealthy stuff, and just because they see the cartoon character on the box and they WANT it, doesn't mean you HAVE to buy it! Just like walking through the toy aisle! There are many things my kids WANT, but they aren't going to GET!

    I do like the idea that someone put on here about maybe healthier food options should look at making their marketing efforts at least INCLUDE kids. I'd like to see the numbers on what Popeye did for Spinach......

    I don't think that the federal government should be taking on and financing yet another parenting issue when there are many other issues that could use more attention and financing. - 5/12/2011   3:09:56 PM
  • 6
    I think it's a great idea. While parents do ultimately make all the choices, it would be immensely helpful if all the fun colorful advertising that makes kids beg for the unhealthy choices were applied to healthier choices. If you can make a healthy choice seem just as fun and be just as profitable a market if you convince the kiddos it's a must have, then why not!? If kids have the idea that unhealthy food is so much more exciting and fun that the healthier option pounded into them from every advertising angle possible, then how can you possible expect them to -want- to make the healthy choice? I know when I was a kid if you gave me a choice between an all natural fruit leather and a fruit roll up, I'd pick the one with the prettier packaging that I had actually heard of by name before (the fruit roll up), and if your kid knows that the more colorful, more fun looking option is out there, there's bound to be the occasional begging for unhealthy options. The promotion of healthy food choices to children can really only help parents make healthy choices easier and more desirable. - 5/12/2011   2:51:43 PM
  • 5
    I agree with the agenda, that there are too many foods that are created with kids in mind, especially breakfast cereals that are just downright unhealthy and should just have their recipe revamped. However, on an issue of child directed advertising, the food purchased for kids is still the parent's responsibiity and the parents are the one's who need the nutritional education

    just a suggestion, but it is improper to repeatedly use an acronym (RACC) in an open forum that has not been defined in its first use - 5/12/2011   2:46:32 PM
  • 4
    The theory behind this is great..but it's putting the responsibility off of the parent, where it should ALWAYS be. The parent needs to teach the child about healthy foods, exercise, monitor tv programming etc. Parents are the Child's first teacher. they will learn by watching and imitation. childhood obesity? i believe it stems from parents who don't want to take enough time to teach their children proper nutrition. It comes from companies making it hard for low income families to purchase better foods for their families, It comes from convenience vs taking the 15mins to plan.
    Yes, i think the market should be more conscious of what they're marketing to children..but really? it just comes down to the choices the parents are or aren't making. And I believe many other parents ~ not all ~ are looking for a scapegoat, someone else to blame, because surely it's not their fault at all that their child is obese. - 5/12/2011   2:37:54 PM
  • 3
    I think it's a great idea. I've discovered my 4 year old son doesn't even know most unhealthy food until he sees it on TV. Putting a favorite cartoon character on a box makes him want it even before he knows what's in the box! This actually worked well with spinach though. Putting cartoons on healthier foods would make my job a bit easier although I know it's still my decision on what goes in our cart. - 5/12/2011   2:34:02 PM
    I'm the parent, it's my job to regulate what they eat and drink, and it's my job to teach them. We also talk with our kids about healthy choices, and that commercials are just like anything on TV....not always true or real. At the end of the day, I buy the groceries, not them. But, I don't live in the States, and many of the products my kids see on TV are not available here. - 5/12/2011   2:32:03 PM
  • 1
    I think that this is a nice idea, but this has really always been and will always be my responsibility as a parent. I have a five year old that likes to eat bran flake because she sees me making that choice. - 5/12/2011   2:18:23 PM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›