Make Junk Food Ad Costs Non-Deductible, Urges US Obesity Lobby

17 October 2003

The American Obesity Association, a non-profit Delaware corporation whose prime objective is to make obesity a public health priority, has asked the Food and Drug Administration to deny tax-deductible status to the cost of advertising foods with low nutritional value.

The AOA is the public voice of leading obesity researchers and clinicians as well as concerned business executives and lay persons. In a letter to the FDA dated September 30, it claimed that most of the $7 billion spent on advertising food each year promoted products of low nutritional value.

Continued the letter: "Food companies are able to heavily advertise to children and consumers through the deductibility of advertising expenses on their corporate income taxes."

Cavalry bugle blaring, the Association of National Advertisers galloped to the defense of tax-deductible food ads, unblushingly enlisting those all-American icons, Mom and Apple Pie.

Said Dan Jaffe, evp of government relations: "We always hear that motherhood and apple pie was something we respected. But any speech about apple pie would be punished by a tax penalty because I'm sure they [the AOA] feel it is too high in sugar. The only thing that gives me comfort is that the courts would never uphold such a thing."

Paradoxically, while the left hand of government gives tax breaks to food advertisers, the right hand is spending some $70 million (€60.18m; £41.79m) this year on an advertising drive exhorting children between 9-13 to be more active.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff