The Federal Trade Commission issued subpoenas to 48 food companies to gather information as part of a follow-up to its 2008 report, “Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities and Self-Regulation.”
In 2007, the FTC sought information from 44 companies to examine how they marketed to children and teenagers.
The new round of subpoenas will measure changes over the last few years. “This is a follow-up to measure the effects that self-regulation has had over the last three years,” said Carol Jennings, spokeswoman for the FTC’s Division of Advertising Practices/Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We are supportive of industry voluntary efforts to limit their marketing to kids and this will see whether more is needed.”
The list of companies – including Campbell Soup Co., Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods, and McDonald’s Corp. – has changed slightly from 2007 to 2010. Thirty-six companies are repeats, with 12 new recipients, including Dunkin’ Brands, Hostess Brands, and Sunny Delight Beverages Co.
Information sought includes the amount spent to communicate marketing messages about food products to youth; the nature of the marketing activities used to market food products to youth; the types of youth marketing to a specific gender, race, ethnicity, or income level; and any marketing policies, initiatives or research in effect or undertaken by the companies relating to the marketing of food and beverage products to children and adolescents. Specific nutritional data was also requested for each food product that the companies marketed to children or adolescents in 2009.
The FTC also requested expenditure data for new media, such as online display advertising, e-mail marketing, mobile marketing, and digital marketing.
For the full list of companies that received subpoenas, click here.
Why it matters: While the FTC spokesperson denied that the subpoenas were the first step in a process toward new legislation, the agency’s concern regarding on marketing food products to children is clear.