FTC Backs Self-Regulation for Food Marketers Targeting Kids

The Federal Trade Commission, in its report on the marketing of food to kids, has handed the food industry a massive victory this week in its fight to avoid regulation over the childhood obesity issue.

The report, released Tuesday, found no area of the $1.6-billion kids-oriented food marketing economy that would require regulation. Instead, the report called for more companies to join the industry’s voluntary self-regulation group, the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, established by the Council of Better Business Bureaus in November 2006.

In only one area did the FTC appear to have views that pose any threat to Big Food’s status quo: What counts as a kids’ TV show.

The report noted that American Idol, American Dad, Family Guy and The Simpsons “commanded the largest percentage share of teens 12-17 in the audience during the 2005-06 television year.” But because only 20% of the shows’ audience is children, they are counted as adult shows in terms of self-regulation.

“The data serve to illustrate the point that children and teenagers are exposed to a great deal of advertising that may be targeted to a general audience comprised mainly of adults,” the report said. “On average, more than two million teens watched American Idol, and more than one million watched American Dad and Family Guy during the 2005-2006 time frame . . . more than three million children watched American Idol, and more than one million watched Unan1mous and The Simpsons.”

The FTC found that unnamed marketers used those shows to reach kids with junk food ads: “One carbonated beverage company, however, acknowledged that ad placements on these shows were part of its marketing strategy to reach teens. In addition, at least two companies have affiliated their brands with shows such as American Idol in order to reach children and teens