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.