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November 4, 2005 

Contact: Allison Dobson/ Maureen Knightly



  Harkin Secures Report to Look at Onslaught of

Food Marketing Directed at Children 

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, announced today that his proposal directing the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report on the food industry’s marketing activities and expenditures targeted toward children and adolescents, has been included in the Senate Commerce, Justice and State Appropriations bill. The bill must be signed by the President before it becomes law. 

“Our nation is confronted with a childhood obesity epidemic that is getting worse,” Harkin said.  “We must take steps to protect our children’s health and help parents promote good nutrition.  Instead, parents are being undermined by the junk food culture that is increasingly promoted to our kids on TV, on the internet and even in their schools.” 

The Harkin provision would require that the FTC submit a report to the Committee by July 1, 2006, documenting food industry marketing activities and expenditures targeted toward children and adolescents.  The report  should include an analysis of commercial advertising time on television, radio, and in print media; in-store marketing; direct payments for preferential shelf placement; events; promotions on packaging; all Internet activities; and product placement in television shows, movies, and video games. 

The rate of children and adolescents who are overweight has nearly tripled from less than five percent in the 1980s to about 16 percent today.  Given the gravity and complexity of the childhood obesity problem in this country, several reports including the recent IOM Preventing Childhood Obesity Report indicate the likely influence food marketing has on children’s diet and overall health.  

The food industry spent an estimated $10-12 billion last year alone in direct marketing to children -- bombarding kids with ads on television and the internet, in movies and magazines, in schools, and through promotional materials such as kids clubs, toys and books.  Food companies are increasingly aggressive in marketing unhealthy food to our children through a wide variety of innovative strategies -- cartoon tie-ins, product placement, “advergaming”, and cross promotions -- with a goal of encouraging children to consume unhealthy products.  

“The current industry efforts to limit junk food marketing directed at children are woefully inadequate,” said Harkin. “It is my continued hope that industry will develop meaningful, uniform, and system-wide set of age-appropriate guidelines for marketing junk food to kids.” 

Harkin has been the Senate leader in federal efforts to combat the obesity epidemic by promoting wellness and healthy habits among adults and children.  He is also the author of the 2005 Healthy Lifestyles and Prevention (HeLP) America Act which focuses on prevention and wellness to confront our nation’s rise in chronic disease

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