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Kids’ Activists, Critics React to FTC Report

Reaction was coming in from kids’ activists and online-ad critics to the Federal Trade Commission's report on food and beverage marketing to kids.

Patti Miller of activist group Children Now said she appreciated the new data but was looking for more action from the industry.

“The FTC report reinforces what we’ve known for several years," she said in a statement. "Companies are heavily marketing unhealthy foods and beverages to our nation’s children despite a childhood-obesity epidemic that is spiraling out of control. While new data are helpful, what we really need is effective industry action."

She added that self-regulatory efforts, which were cited by the industries in their report Tuesday, are insufficient. "Media companies are largely missing from the equation," she said. "The FTC report, similar to the 2005 Institute of Medicine report, recommends that the industry [step up],” Miller said. “How many years do we have to wait for media companies to take action? They must adopt a uniform nutrition standard and monitor the advertising environments to ensure that unhealthy food advertising is significantly reduced.”

“We know there is a link between television advertising and the food preferences, purchase requests and consumption habits of our nation’s children," says Miller. "Yet media companies continue to privilege their profits over the health and nutrition concerns of the nation’s children. They must act now. The stakes are too high to sell children’s needs short.”

Jeff Chester, head of the Center for Digital Democracy, which has helped to shape the food marketing debate, said he, too, was looking for more out of the FTC.

"The FTC report should have acknowledged how online advertising is changing the very nature of marketing," he told B&C, "and that food and beverage companies are a key part of what they call a marketing ‘ecosystem.’ Such new-media techniques work on a deep and personal psychological level."

Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood was none too pleased with the FTC report. "Given the concerning picture of food marketing’s infiltration of children’s lives painted by the FTC report," she said in a statement, "it is disappointing that they continue to perpetuate the myth that self-regulation can effectively rein in an industry whose profits rely on commercializing childhood."