Companies Get Poor Grades for Kids' Food Ads
Report by Consumer Group Finds Many Companies Promote Unhealthy Foods to Kids
WebMD News Archive
March 9, 2010 -- Most companies lack meaningful policies to curb the
marketing of high-fat and high-sugar junk food to children, according to a
report by a consumer watchdog group.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) gives failing grades to
nearly three-quarters of the 128 food, restaurant, and media companies it
investigated. The group is concerned that food marketers continue to
aggressively promote unhealthy foods to children despite high obesity rates and regulators' pleas to rein in ads.
Packaged food companies performed much better than media firms or
restaurants, the group says. But the report finds that overall 68% of the
companies have no policy governing marketing to kids.
Many companies signed onto a voluntary self-regulation system after the
regulators fielded complaints about aggressive junk food advertising and the
licensing of characters and movies to make junk food more attractive to
In 2008, the Federal Trade Commission found that companies spent $870
million marketing food to children under 12. An additional $1 billion went to
marketing aimed at adolescents. Two years earlier, "cross-promotions tied foods
and beverages to about 80 movies, television shows, and animated characters
that appeal primarily to children," the commission said in a report published
in July 2008.
The agency urged food, restaurant, and media companies to come up with
comprehensive policies controlling junk food marketing to kids.
"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," says Margo G. Wootan, CSPI's nutrition policy director.
Curbing Food Ads to Kids
The group gave its highest grade of B+ to Mars Inc. The companies with
grades of B were Procter & Gamble Company and Qubo Venture, a media company
that places Saturday morning programming on NBC, Telemundo, and other networks.
Several food companies, including Mars, Procter & Gamble, and Cadbury
Adams, have policies calling for no advertising to children under 12.
Six companies got a B-, 17 got a C+, C, or C-, seven companies got a D+ or
D, none received a D-, and 95 received an F. The complete report
card is published on CSPI's web site.