Unfortunately, the IWG never produced a study. Instead they issued their own set of absurdly strict regulations on how food can be advertized to children. The IWG’s recommended regulations would ban some of America’s favorite foods from being advertized—including healthy foods like pretzels, crackers, low-fat milk and even bottled water. And according to one study, the regulations, if enacted, would cost upwards of 70,000 jobs and billions of dollars in lost revenue.
In addition to ignoring their actual mandate, the IWG ignored what the food industry is already doing voluntarily to address marketing to children. In 2006, the Federal Trade Commission called for self regulation. In response, seventeen leading food companies created the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) for the express purpose of reducing food advertising to children and ensuring that only healthy food is advertised during children’s programs.
For whatever it's worth, industry’s voluntary efforts have succeeding in shielding children from candy and other unhealthy food commercials. According to congressional testimony by the Better Business Bureau, of all the advertisements shown during children’s programs (such as cartoons), only 24 percent were food products. Of that 24 percent, a whopping 79 percent were from companies participating in the CFBAI (which pledges to only market healthy food during children’s programs). In other words, of the commercials a child might see, only a fraction are for food and of those, most of the food being advertised is healthy.
Last week, the IWG announced they planned to alter their original recommendations to target only advertising directed at children under age twelve. It is a good sign that the IWG is listening to their many critics, but the announced changes are not enough.
The IWG must be disbanded. It has failed to stay within the congressional mandate and shown reckless disregard for the economic impact of their recommendations. In addition, the IWG issued these recommendations without a shred of proof that food advertising relates to childhood obesity.
Americans don't need a nanny government to micromanage what food commercials run on kids' television—just as they don't need bureaucrats monitoring salt intake, banning the toys in happy meals, trying to do away with trans-fats, or hitting us over the head with calorie information. It's our job as parents and individuals to make healthy choices. And those concerned that their kids might see too many advertisements can always employ this simple four-word solution:
Turn. Off. The. Television.