WASHINGTON DC: US regulators have welcomed the self-imposed measures unveiled last week by advertisers and media companies to curtail food and beverage marketing to the nation's youngsters.

Federal Trade Commission chairman Deborah Platt Majoras told a workshop on childhood obesity that voluntary restrictions can bring about change "more quickly and effectively than government regulation of speech".

The 11 major food manufacturers involved in the Council of Better Business Bureaus initiative include McDonald's, PepsiCo and General Mills.

All have pledged to stop advertising products that do not meet certain nutritional standards to children below age twelve.

In addition they undertake to limit the use of cartoon characters in promotions and to allow the CBBB to scrutinize their marketing plans and report publicly.

Added Platt Majoras: "Childhood obesity is a significant health cost that is borne increasingly by the biggest companies.

"If this doesn't ultimately spur big firms to act, then ultimately they should be spurred by competition in the marketplace from companies that have chosen to act."

Media firms such as the Walt Disney Company and BET Networks claim also to have taken steps to positively promote healthy foods. Disney theme parks, for example, no longer include French fries in McDonald's Happy Meals.

However, not everyone feels these firms are doing enough to tackle the obesity problem.

Says Democrat congressman Ed Markey: "Food marketers setting standards is half the battle, but unless the media companies also set standards, junk-food ads will keep popping up to pollute the oasis."

Data sourced from AdWeek (USA); additional content by WARC staff