Target: Mary Engle, Federal Trade Commission — Associate Director of Advertising Practices
Goal: Achieve straightforward reporting on how food advertising affects childhood obesity.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released the second in a series of reports on how the food industry markets to children. Although the report was originally “prompted by concerns about dramatic increases in the rate of childhood obesity,” it is full of misleading statistics that will do nothing to solve the problem at hand. How can our country effectively promote healthy choices for its children if the reports investigating careless food marketing continue to “sugar coat” the issue?
Considering that this report was intended to release information that might derail obesity-inducing marketing to children, the document has entirely missed the point.
One example of skirted issues can be found in a section about cereal advertising. The report proudly points out the “virtual elimination of marketing to children of the most sugary cereals – those with 13g or more sugar per serving.” That level of sugar is astronomical, and the unmentioned root of the problem is that children are ingesting much more than the recommended amount of added sugar. Moreover, the report fosters the illusion that most of the nutritionally empty children’s cereals being advertised are a healthy choice. Even a cereal containing the “acceptable” 9g of sugar per serving provides 75% of the recommended daily limit of added sugar for a 6-year-old while supplying practically no real nourishment.
The report also neglected to touch on the subject of product reformulation–the practice of reducing one unhealthy ingredient while adding another. The result is often a misleading “healthier for you” message touting, for example, lower levels of sugar while failing to mention higher levels of artificial sweetener. In fact, the issue of ingredients is forgone completely. Shouldn’t food advertisements have some kind of accountability for claiming use of highly processed plant oils or genetically modified by-products?
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. That figure, released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010, has its result in the fact that more than one-third of children and adolescents were determined to be overweight in that year. With a problem of this scope and a very pervasive media, trusted FTC reports like this one will simply have to rid themselves of flowery statistics and address root issues head-on if we are to gain any ground by their contents. Mary Engle has the power to make this change – sign this petition and implore the FTC Department of Advertising Practices to draft effective, pointed reports.
Dear Associate Director Engle,
The Food Industry’s advertising practices have contributed largely to rising obesity rates in America’s population. Especially unfortunate are the increasing instances of obesity in children and adolescents across the country. The FTC’s recent release of “A Review of Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents: Follow-up Report” was intended to combat these unhealthy trends, but is not likely to be effective due to sugar-coated statistics and skirted issues.
Among other shortcomings, the report largely neglects to address the importance of advertised ingredients, especially potentially harmful genetically modified by-products and the issue of misrepresentation through product reformulation. Overall, the report fosters illusions that the problems in food advertising are lesser than they truly are.
Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years. That figure, released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010, has its result in the fact that more than one-third of children and adolescents were determined to be overweight in that year. If we are to make any headway on these problems through the contents of FTC reports on food advertising, those reports must address more root issues. I urge you to release reports applying pressure on advertisers to promote foods that are actually nutritious, rather than pressure to merely conduct less promotion of foods that are extremely unhealthy.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: Ben Templesmith via Flickr