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FTC Modifies Marketing Ingredients

Food marketers can breathe a little easier after the Federal Trade Commission last week signaled it was modifying some of the kids food marketing guidelines it proposed in April.

In testimony before Congress last week, David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said that after taking into account thousands of comments the commission would not recommend to Congress that it generally expand those guidelines to marketing of foods to kids 12 through 17, as the original plan had proposed.

Vladeck agreed that it is often tough to distinguish between marketing to teens and to a general or adult audience, a point industry marketers made in opposing expanding the age range.

He also said the FTC does not think the guidelines should apply to sponsorships of sporting events, and that the commission does not plan to recommend that marketers remove branded characters from packaging that does not meet food guidelines. Those were all plusses for advertisers and media companies concerned the new voluntary guidelines could turn into regulations by proxy, and for Republican legislators who had called for rescinding the guidelines altogether.

Vladeck added that the commission has also reexamined the approach to criteria for assessing which shows or Websites are targeting kids, confi rming that it is not over-inclusive (or under-inclusive); he expects the result will be approximately what food marketing self-regulations already require.

“[W]e cannot ask more of food marketers than they can reasonably deliver if we expect their continued cooperation in this effort,” Vladeck said.

Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy, which has been pushing the government to get tough on food marketing to kids, was not pleased. “The White House and the FTC have shamelessly caved into the demands of the junk food marketing lobby,” Chester told B&C. “The Administration has decided to ignore the science and place the interests of the largest food companies over the health of young people.”