FTC softens proposal on food marketing guidelines


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The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has indicated that it will be softening its approach to food marketing by amending parts of the Interagency Working Group's (IWG) proposal for nutrition standards for food marketed to children.

On 12th October, David Vladeck, Director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, told representatives from the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade and the Subcommittee on Health during a House hearing that the coalition of government agencies is “in the midst of making significant revisions” to its original proposal, tabled in April 2011. The FTC Statement made by Mr Vladeck reaffirms its support for self-regulation.

The nutritional guidelines first tabled by the Interagency Working Group, which brings together the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), were widely seen as overly restrictive.

Of the top 100 food consumed in US, the guidelines would prohibit the advertising of 88 on the basis of their profiling model.

Main amendments to the IWG proposal include:
- Age range: Narrowing the age group targeted and focusing on children aged 2 to 11 instead of up to age 17
- Media: Criteria defining media “targeted at children” will be flexible enough to be neither over-inclusive – covering marketing to a general or family audience – nor under-inclusive – leaving out marketing that is clearly targeted to children. The Commission is proposing adjusting its proposed audience share criterion for the traditional media marketing category (television, print, and radio) from 30% children ages 2 to 11 years, to the same 35% audience share used by the members of the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI).
- Sponsorship: Allowing marketing of foods at fundraisers and sporting events “to the extent that many benefit children's health by promoting physical activity”.
- Packaging and brand characters: Vladeck also announced that his agency would not recommend that companies change packaging or remove brand characters from food products that don't qualify, as was originally suggested in the guidelines.

Elaine Kolish, Director of the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) was also invited to make a statement during the hearing. Mrs Kolish presented the CFBAI's nutrition criteria which provide, in contrast to the IWG's original proposal, “a rigorous, yet realistic roadmap for future improvements.”

For more information, contact Will Gilroy at w.gilroy@wfanet.org

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