FTC Announces Intent to Issue Compulsory Process Orders Regarding Marketing of Food and Beverages

In a May 25, 2010, Federal Register Notice, the Federal Trade Commission (the “FTC”) announced its intention to issue compulsory process orders to 48 food and beverage manufacturers, distributors, marketers, and quick service restaurant companies. The proposed orders seek information concerning the companies’ marketing expenditures targeted toward children and adolescents, and nutritional information about the companies’ food and beverage products marketed to children and adolescents.

The proposed orders, issued under Section 6(b) of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. § 46(b), will seek information in six categories, including:

• The categories of foods marketed to children (ages 2-11 years) and adolescents (ages 12-17 years);

• The types of measured and unmeasured media techniques used to market food products
to children and adolescents;

• The amount spent to communicate marketing messages about food products to children and adolescents;

• The nature of the marketing activities used to market food products to children and adolescents;

• Marketing to children and adolescents of a specific gender, race, ethnicity, or income level; and

• Marketing policies, initiatives, or research in effect or undertaken relating to the marketing of food and beverage products to children and adolescents.

By procuring this information, the FTC will be able to evaluate the impact of self-regulatory efforts on the nutritional profiles of foods marketed to children and adolescents. In addition, the FTC seeks to determine and analyze how companies allocate their promotional activities and expenditures among various media and for different food products. Interested parties may submit comments on or before June 24, 2010.

This FTC action is a follow-up to its July 2008 report entitled, Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self-Regulation. That report represented the findings of a 2006 FTC study of promotional activities related to food and food products targeted toward children and adolescents. It found that, while room for improvement existed, the food and beverage industries had made significant progress on this front since the FTC and the Department of Health and Human Services co-sponsored a Workshop on Marketing, Self-Regulation & Childhood Obesity in 2005. As everyone from the First Lady to the World Health Organization is focused on the impact of marketing on childhood obesity, the results of this FTC action will bear monitoring.

Will the New Health Care Law Improve Chilren's Nutrition?

By Guest Blogger David Pacheco

This post also appears on the Essential Nutrition Law Blog

It is hard to deny that Americans are putting on the pounds and that the problem is often starting with poor nutrition during childhood. The problem has not gone unnoticed and a number of organizations, including the federal government, are trying to trim down the epidemic.

Authors Ellen-Marie Whelan , Lesley Russell, and Sonia Sekhar of the Center for American Progress recently published the report, "Confronting America's Childhood Obesity Epidemic: How the Health Care Reform Law Will Help Prevent and Reduce Obesity" (link to website introducing the report, with links to the full version and executive summary). As is clear from the title, the report analyzes the potential effect of the new health care reform laws on children's nutrition. Specifically, the authors discuss the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and highlight the following provisions as those with the most effective measures for combating childhood obesity:

•Improved nutrition labeling in fast food restaurants, which will list calories and provide information on other nutrients (For more information on this specific provision, take a look at Richard Goldfarb's excellent post with his thoughts on the new labeling requirement).

•The Childhood Obesity Demonstration Project, which gives grants to community-based obesity intervention programs

•Community Transformation Grants, which gives grants to community-based efforts to prevent chronic diseases

The report also analyzes a number of other aspects of the law that, while not targeted specifically at combating obesity, the authors believe will have some positive effect on the problem.