Open Thread: Should the FDA Control Junk Food Marketing?



Now that tobacco advertisements have been cut down to size by the U.S. government’s Family Smoking Prevention and Control Act (no more color ads for tobacco, audio ads that use music or sound effects, mail-in cigarette coupons etc.), regulators are shifting their attention toward another major American health problem: junk food.

BNET points us toward this document (PDF), which outlines potential nutritional standards for food marketed to children. The document, created by an interagency working group with members from the FTC, FDA, CDC, and USDA, suggests that “foods marketed to children must provide a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet.” The working group’s document has a fairly strict definition of “meaningful contribution”:

Option A:
Food must contain at least 50% by weight of one or more of the following: fruit; vegetable; whole grain; fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt; fish; extra lean meat or poultry; eggs; nuts and seeds; or beans
Option B:
Food must contain one or more of the following per RACC: 0.5 cups fruit or fruit juice 0.6 cups vegetables or vegetable juice 0.75 oz. equivalent of 100% whole grain
0.75 cups milk or yogurt; 1 oz. natural cheese; 1.5 oz. processed cheese
1.4 oz. meat equivalent of fish or extra lean meat or poultry
0.3 cups cooked dry beans 0.7 oz. nuts or seeds
1 egg or egg equivalent

These requirements exclude a lot more than than traditional junk food. Perhaps that’s why it’s taking so long to finalize the working group’s standards–the FTC originally presented them in December 2009, and while the FDA and FTC have both signed off on the standards, the USDA remains mum. We’re guessing that the USDA is receiving plenty of pushback from lobbying groups.


But we want to know what you think. Do these requirements make sense, or is the government going too far?

About the author

Ariel Schwartz is a Senior Editor at Co.Exist. She has contributed to SF Weekly, Popular Science, Inhabitat, Greenbiz, NBC Bay Area, GOOD Magazine and more