Ronald McDonald, Toucan Sam to Get Pardons From Feds?

Serious changes to food marketing guidelines discussed

The federal agencies behind the government's proposed voluntary guidelines for marketing food to children appear ready to back down on certain elements of the guidelines that have been the subject of vigorous opposition from the food and advertising industries.

In testimony that he'll deliver during a House subcommittee hearing Wednesday, David Vladeck, the director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection within the Federal Trade Commission, one of the four agencies in the Interagency Working Group responsible for the guidelines, will say that "the Working Group is in the midst of making significant revisions to its preliminary proposal," and that these revisions "go a long way" toward addressing concerns from industry, and "share much in common" with an industry self-regulatory program. 

More specifically, in his testimony, Vladeck indicates that the guidelines could be narrowed to focus only on marketing targeting children aged 12 or younger, as compared to the current draft of the guidelines, which includes marketing aimed at kids as old as 17. And, Vladeck says, "The [FTC] is making a real effort to avoid pulling in marketing activities that are family-oriented or directed to a more general audience and to limit the revised approach to marketing that more exclusively targets the child only." Notably, Vladeck also says the new guidelines wouldn't go after established characters like Ronald McDonald and Toucan Sam, or other elements of marketing and packaging "inextricably tied to the food's brand identity." 

Vladeck has been trading barbs with the advertising and food industries since the guidelines were proposed in April, but he'll take a more conciliatory tone in his testimony, emphasizing the importance of industry self-regulation in addition to talking about potential revisions.  

But the response from industry representatives to Vladeck's olive branch has been tepid. 

"We are pleased they admit there were serious problems with the proposal," said Association of National Advertisers Executive Vice President Dan Jaffe, who will also testify Wednesday. "But they've never answered the questions more than 150 congressional members requested about how the proposals will positively or negatively impact obesity. It's not enough for the IWG to say 'We're dropping this and dropping that.'"

Recommended articles