Researchers from New York University have found that children are vulnerable to deceptive marketing of unhealthy food because of a lack of government oversight.
Government oversight on food marketing toward kids is lacking, according to a recent study by researchers from New York University.
Study author Jennifer Pomeranz, assistant professor of public health policy and management at NYU School of Global Public Health stated that industry self-regulation is used for food marketing, falling behind modern practices. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is meant to prevent deceptive marketing, but it has little impact on marketing for kids.
In 1980, the FTC attempted to regulate commercials with sugary food and drinks on children’s television, leading Congress to limit its effectiveness on marketing for children. Now, the FTC collects data on food marketing toward children and reports this data to food companies with deceptive marketing.
Without the FTC regulating food marketing for children, the United States relies on self-regulation from food and beverage companies. The Children’s Food and Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) created guidelines for marketing. According to researchers, these guidelines contain gaps which allow nutrition standards to be ignored.
CFBAI applies to children aged under 12 years, only affecting marketing in media meant for young kids. Packaging and stores are also unaffected, and companies can market their brands using healthier products to connect children with unhealthy brand lines.
Advertising has also expanded beyond television, reaching websites such as YouTube. On these sites, characters from shows children watch can market a product in an advertisement, which is not allowed on television.
“Research indicates that even adults have difficulty identifying sponsored content online, so children surely need some protection from these predatory practices,” said Dariush Mozaffarian, study author, dean for policy of the Friedman School at Tufts.
Much of the responsibility is put on parents to regulate what their children watch, but Pomeranz noted that this is less feasible with modern online marketing practices. Authors of the study encouraged Congress to give the FTC their prior authority over marketing toward children to prevent unfair and deceptive practices.
Food marketing and research on kids lacks government oversight. NYU. November 18, 2022. Accessed November 21, 2022. https://www.nyu.edu/about/news-publications/news/2022/november/food-marketing-and-research-on-kids-lacks-government-oversight.html