F.T.C. plans second food marketing activities study

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comments until June 24 concerning the proposed collection of information from food and beverage companies and quick-service restaurants, according to a May 25 notice in the Federal Register.

The request for public comments comes in advance of the F.T.C.’s proposed effort to again study the marketing activities and expenditures targeted toward children and adolescents and the nutritional information about the companies’ food and beverage products marketed to children and adolescents.

In 2008, the F.T.C. published a report entitled “Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities, and Self Regulation” that was based on activities of 44 food companies across several categories during 2006. The F.T.C. now is looking to send information requests to 48 food and beverage manufacturers, 40 of which took part in the 2006 study.

Among the 48 companies to which the F.T.C. proposes sending information are several fruit and vegetable producers, distributors and marketers that previously were not asked to participate.

“Traditionally, fruit and vegetable companies have not engaged in significant marketing efforts but, in recent years, some of these fruit and vegetable companies have packaged and promoted their products in ways likely to appeal to children, such as by using licensed characters popular with children in their product labels and displays,” the F.T.C. noted in the Federal Register. “Gathering information on these practices will enable F.T.C. staff to compare the marketing techniques and expenditures being used to market fruits and vegetables relative to foods that traditionally have been more frequently marketed to children and adolescents.”

The F.T.C. said it is seeking much of the same data and information it collected for the 2006 study, including the types of measured and unmeasured media techniques used to market food and the amount spent to communicate marketing messages about food. The specific categories to be examined include breakfast cereals; snack foods; candy and frozen desserts; dairy products; baked foods; prepared foods and meals; carbonated beverages; fruit juice and non-carbonated beverages; restaurant foods; and fruits and vegetables.

Possible changes in the nutritional content, and variety, of youth-marketed foods between 2006 and 2009 also are proposed to be studied, according to the F.T.C. The Commission said it plans to request common nutrient information that typically appears on the Nutritional Facts Panel and intends to seek out certain other information, including added sugar, all grain content and whole grain content, fruit and juice content, and dairy content.

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