Friday, July 15, 2005

There are no bad foods, only bad children


New York Times today. Headline: Food Industry Defends Marketing to Children.
ABOUT 350 food company executives, government officials, consumer advocates and academics packed a meeting room at the Federal Trade Commission's offices yesterday to discuss a wide range of issues on marketing food to children.
Amazingly, neither the government nor industry reps were in favour of government regulations. The industry, with the blessing of the Federal Trade Commissioner, has its own 5 person self-regulation organization called the Children's Advertising Review Board, or CARU. According to the CARU website:
CARU is the children's arm of the advertising industry's self-regulation program and evaluates child-directed advertising and promotional material in all media to advance truthfulness, accuracy and consistency with its Self-Regulatory Guidelines for Children's Advertising and relevant laws.
Well that’s good news, isn’t it? Turn on the tube, Mabel and let Johnny watch the Cap’n Crunch Cardio-Kids Hour.

But there were some dissenting voices in the crowd. According to Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa:
"CARU has become the poster child for how not to do self-regulation," said Senator Harkin, who was one of the few speakers to use the phrase "junk food." The board, he said, "has shown itself to be a captive to the industry."
Well, given that Senator Martin is a Democratic and we don’t know what his alterior motives are it’s hard to accept such an assertion without supporting evidence.

At the table were also representatives from the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association. They’ve published their own report on advertising food to kids, and claim that “data collected by Nielsen Media Research shows that children are viewing less food, beverage and restaurant advertising today than they were a decade ago.”

I guess that’s good news.

Unfortunately, for the GMA and all of the makers of kid-directed junk food advertising, their spokesman, Richard Martin seems to have missed the meeting where their key messages to media were outlined. (I also doubt this guy has kids). This has to be one of the dumbest quotes I’ve seen in several months:
The association says is it is opposed to nutritional guidelines because it does not believe there are any bad foods. “Any food can be responsibly consumed by everyone, including kids,” Mr. Martin said.
Hey, Mr. Martin, your industry funding is showing. Two points for Senator Harkin’s side and for common sense.

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