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Food marketing to children without regulation

According to a recent study by researchers at New York University, government oversight of food marketing to children is lacking.

Study author Jennifer Pomeranz, assistant professor of public health policy and management at the NYU School of Global Public Health, said industry self-regulation is being used for food marketing, taking behind modern practices. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is supposed to prevent deceptive marketing, but it has little impact on marketing to children.

In 1980, the FTC attempted to regulate advertisements containing sugary foods and beverages on children’s television, leading Congress to limit its effectiveness on marketing to children. Now the FTC collects data on food marketing to children and shares that data with food companies with deceptive marketing.

Without the FTC regulating food marketing to children, the United States relies on self-regulation by food and beverage companies. The Children’s Food and Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) has created guidelines for marketing. According to the researchers, these guidelines contain loopholes that make it possible to ignore nutritional standards.

The CFBAI applies to children under the age of 12 and only affects marketing in media aimed at young children. Packaging and stores are also unaffected, and companies can market their brands using healthier products to connect children with unhealthy brand lines.

Advertising has also expanded beyond television, reaching websites such as YouTube. On these sites, characters from programs watched by children can market a product in an advertisement, which is not authorized on television.

“Research indicates that even adults have difficulty identifying sponsored content online, so children surely need some protection against these predatory practices,” said study author Dariush Mozaffarian, Dean of politics of the Friedman School at Tufts.

Much of the responsibility falls on parents to regulate what their children watch, but Pomeranz noted that is less feasible with modern online marketing practices. The study’s authors urged Congress to give the FTC their prior authority over marketing to children to prevent unfair and deceptive practices.


Food marketing and research on children lack government oversight. NYU. November 18, 2022. Accessed November 21, 2022. https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2022/november/food-marketing-and-research-on-kids-lacks-government-oversight.html


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