Public health advocates from around the country have sent a letter to President Barack Obama (D) urging his administration to finalize the April 2011 proposed voluntary standards for food marketing to children. The guidelines would set limits on the amount of unhealthy fats, added sugars and sodium in foods advertised to children ages 2-17. Additional information on the proposed guidelines, which were designed by a Federal Trade Commission-led working group, can be found in Issue 392 of this Update.

The September 27 letter was signed by 75 individuals claiming expertise in nutrition, marketing, medicine, and public health, including Kelly Brownell, Director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity; anti-tobacco attorney Richard Daynard, Director of the Public Health Advocacy Institute; Frank Hu, Professor of Nutrition and Epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health; Marion Nestle, New York University Professor of Nutrition and Food Studies; and Juliet Schor, Boston College Professor of Sociology. Contending that “food marketing plays a key role” in contributing to the country’s high obesity rate, they suggest that the food industry’s $2 billion youth marketing budget “is testament to the fact that food marketing works.” According to the letter, the industry’s self-regulatory guidelines are not decreasing unhealthy food marketing to children quickly enough, noting that at the current rate “children will not be fully protected from unhealthy food ads until 2033.”  

Margo Wootan, nutrition policy director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which helped craft the rules and organized the letter campaign, was quoted as saying that it “would be a real setback for children’s health if the administration backed down on strong guidelines for food marketing to children.” See CSPI News Release, September 27, 2011.