Food companies get 'F' for marketing to kids
Three quarters of the 128 companies get a failing grade for their policies on marketing food to kids, according to a new report card from the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Those companies had weak policies or no policies, the nonprofit group said.
The highest grade -- a B+ -- went to Mars Inc., but the group was sure the highlight that it was not for the food the company sells, such as candy. It was because the company policy says there is no marketing to kids under 12.
Procter & Gamble, maker of Pringles, got a B. Six others got a B-, 17 got a C, 7 a D. Ninety-five companies got an F.
“Despite the industry’s self-regulatory system, the vast majority of food and entertainment companies have no protections in place for children,” said CSPI nutrition policy director Margo G. Wootan, in a statement. “If companies were marketing bananas and broccoli, we wouldn’t be concerned. But instead, most of the marketing is for sugary cereals, fast food, snack foods, and candy. And this junk food marketing is a major contributor to childhood obesity.”
Companies spend about $2 billion a year marketing to kids. And the group points to an Institute of Medicine study that showed TV commercials affect children’s food choices, food purchase requests, diets and health.
Some of the worst in the CSPI study were Denny’s; Lucasfilms, which partners with McDonald's; Topps, which markets a miniature candy baby bottle, eaten by dipping a candy nipple in a sugary powder and licking it off.
A self-regulatory program by the Council of Better Business Bureaus, called the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, was introduced in 2006. It got 16 food and restaurant companies that represent about 80 percent of television food advertising expenditures to commit to no marketing to children under 12 if the companies' individual nutritional standards weren't met, but the standards are carefully tailored, the group said, and allow junk-food advertising to kdis.
The group found 80 percent of food ads on the kids channel Nickelodeon were for junk food.
The Federal Trade Commission plans in the next few weeks to propose nutrition criteria and other standards for foods aimed at kids. They would be voluntary.