US Marketers Hint at Major Shift in 'Junk Food' Ads

09 July 2007

WASHINGTON DC: A long-awaited federal report on food marketing to US youngsters has been postponed as lawmakers, media companies and advocacy groups await a raft of "dramatic statements" by the industry's major manufacturers.

The conclusions of a special task force investigating links between childhood obesity and food marketing - set up by media watchdog, the Federal Communications Commission and a number of US senators [WARC News: 25-Jan-07] - were expected to be published this month.

But the agreed delay (until September) is widely thought to mean that food and beverage companies will unveil their own initiatives in ten days' time.

Comments task force volunteer coordinator Gary Knell: "I am led to believe that we will get some impressive commitments from major advertisers."

He adds: "I am looking forward to dramatic statements on the part of the food companies so we can begin to look at media companies as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem."

Food manufacturers have been under increasing pressure to change their marketing practices as the US fights a childhood obesity epidemic.

Some advocacy groups and lawmakers have demanded federal legislation to curb what they see as the excesses of 'junk food' promotion in the media, but manufacturers are keen to show that self-regulation is the way forward.

They could take a number of routes, including changing the nutritional content of their products to make them more healthful; or switch advertising to adult brands that target parents rather than children.

Most recently, breakfast cereal giant, the Kellogg Company announced it was to make its products healthier, or stop marketing them to children under the age of 12 [WARC News: 15-Jun-07].

Some child health lobbyists have complained that the task force and subsequent workshops have been nothing more than delaying tactics.

Avers Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest: "We have reports and lots of recommendations. What needs to be done is to do something about it now."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff