A guaranteed headline-grabber for any ambitious politico these days is to slam the fast food industry for its child marketing practices.

And few politicians come more ambitious than Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman, wannabe Democrat presidential candidate for the 2004 shootout.

The headline writers duly obliged earlier this week when Lieberman demanded that the Federal Trade Commission launch an investigation into the advertising of junk food to kids.

Said Lieberman as he ward-heeled New Hampshire in pursuit of the Democrat nomination: "Parents today are being forced to contend with a new threat -- big fast food companies targeting junk food at children. And that's literally feeding an epidemic of obesity. It's time to stand up to the companies marketing to children products that can be harmful to their health.

"Foods that feed the obesity crisis are being peddled to our children as never before," opined the senator. "American children see an average of 10,000 food advertisements a year. And for the industry, that advertising pays off."

As ever with politicians, Lieberman's timing was calculated. His bandwagon-leap coincides with a major special report by ABC television on food advertising, due to be aired Monday and snappily titled How to Get Fat Without Really Trying.

The Connecticut lawmaker's remarks are unlikely to win him the votes of trade body, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, already up in arms at the upcoming ABC program.

The outraged grocers allege ABC interviewed an employee six months ago who no longer works for the GMA; therefore [unspecified] steps taken after that employee's departure are unlikely to be reflected in the show. But GMA executives declined to comment on Lieberman's intervention.

It follows hard on the heels of a blistering report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which demands a federal ban on high-fat food advertising aimed at children [WAMN: 12-Nov-03].

In the light of the report Lieberman has also asked the FTC to draft a disclosure requirement for high fats, high sugars and low nutritional value in foods aimed at children; also a ban on sales of junk food in school vending machines.

Data sourced from: AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff