The federal government proposed new guidelines for the food industry. It wants the industry to change how it advertises cereal, soda pop, snacks, restaurant meals and other foods to children.
Regulators are asking food makers and restaurant companies to make their products healthier or stop advertising them to youngsters.
The Federal Trade Commission released the guidelines. They affect marketing efforts, including:
- Television, print ads, Web sites
- Online games that conceal advertisements
- Social media
- Product placement in movies
- Movie characters promoting fast-food children’s meals
Children’s advocates say online advertising to children through digital media such as games is a big problem.
The F.T.C. said that in 2006, food companies spent $2.3 billion to advertise to children.
The guidelines are voluntary. Companies that choose to follow them would have five to 10 years to change their products and marketing.
The guidelines call for foods advertised to children to meet two basic requirements. They would have to include certain healthful ingredients, like whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, or low-fat milk. They could not contain unhealthful amounts of sugar, saturated, trans fat and salt.
The sugar requirement would limit cereals to eight grams of added sugar a serving. This is far less than many popular cereals have today. Froot Loops and Cap’n Crunch, for example, contain 12 grams of sugar a serving.
The food industry criticized the proposal. They said it had already taken steps to improve recipes and change the way it advertises to children.
The F.T.C. proposal covers all forms of marketing to kids. One official said the the images and themes on the cereal boxes have tremendous appeal to kids. The goal is to encourage children to eat more healthy foods because obesity is a huge health crisis.