April 17, 2024

U.S. Seeks Stricter Limits on Food Ads Aimed at Children

The guidelines, which would be voluntary, could push companies to speed up changes already under way to cut sugar and salt and add fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains.

The proposal, released by the Federal Trade Commission, encompasses all forms of advertising to children and teenagers, including commercials on television shows, company Web sites and online games that promote products, often discreetly, and even the cartoon characters that appear on many cereal boxes and other packaged goods.

The food industry immediately pushed back against the proposal, saying that it was already taking important steps to address the issues. But industry clearly felt pressured by the proposal, even though the guidelines were intended to be voluntary.

“There’s clearly a demand hidden behind the velvet glove of the voluntary language,” said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers, a trade group that represents companies that advertise their products.

He called the government proposal “overly restrictive.”

Many food companies have already signed on to an industry-led effort to restrict some food advertising aimed at children, but each company is allowed to set its own nutritional criteria, which critics say undermines its effectiveness.

Regulators said it was important for the entire industry to adhere to a uniform set of standards.

“The goal is to encourage children to eat more healthy foods because obesity is a huge health crisis,” a lawyer for the Federal Trade Commission, Michelle Rusk, said.

The report was initiated by Congress and written by the commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the agriculture department and the Centers for Disease Control.

Regulators said they would take comments and consider changes before submitting a final report to Congress, perhaps before the end of the year.

The proposal envisions guidelines that would be phased in over five years or more if companies agree to accept them.

They call for foods that are advertised to children to meet two types of requirements. Both packaged foods and food served in restaurants would have to include certain healthy ingredients, like whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables or low-fat milk. And they could not contain unhealthy amounts of sugar, saturated fat and salt.

The sugar requirement would limit breakfast cereals to 8 grams a serving, far less than many popular cereals have today. Froot Loops and Cap’n Crunch, for example, contain 12 grams a serving.

The salt restrictions are particularly stringent, and many packaged foods would have a hard time meeting them. In an initial phase-in period, the guidelines call for many foods to have no more than 210 milligrams of sodium a serving, while main dishes and meals, including both restaurant food and packaged food, could have no more than 450 milligrams. The restrictions would get even tougher over time. Today a can of Chef Boyardee beef ravioli has 750 milligrams of sodium per serving. (A 15-ounce can has about two servings.)

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=db2b83b793346a7c6c5c0655884da654

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