Potential Policy Solutions
The massive amount of marketing for calorie-dense nutrient-poor foods that young people encounter daily poses significant long-term risks to their health. Substantial reductions in food marketing to children and adolescents are needed. We propose that parents, child advocates and policymakers can play an important role in protecting children and adolescents from the unhealthy influence of food marketing.
Educational solutions will not offset the risks of exposure to food marketing. Food marketing is often specifically designed to influence without conscious and rational consideration of the messages presented and to take advantage of young people’s developmental vulnerabilities.
- The American Psychological Association (APA) concludes that advertising to children younger than 8 is unfair. Young children lack the cognitive ability to understand the persuasive intent of advertising, a necessary skill to counteract its influence.
- The Food Marketing Defense Model uses psychological research to demonstrate that it may be virtually impossible for any child or adolescent to defend against most common food marketing practices.
Industry self-regulation in its current form has done little to reduce young people’s exposure to marketing for foods of poor nutritional quality.
Government regulation of food advertising in the media faces barriers due to the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution which protects commercial speech. However, legal scholars propose that restrictions on food marketing to children do not conflict with the First Amendment.
States and municipalities can enact policies at the local level to reduce young people’s daily exposure to food marketing in their own communities.
Research and resources
- Sugar labeling regulations should be updated by the FDA to include added sugar.
- The government can intervene in the marketing of unhealthy food to children.
- School bus advertising should be prohibited by school districts.
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has the authority to regulate food advertising to young children. (Pomeranz 2010, Pomeranz 2011)
- The First Amendment does not prohibit regulations to protect young people from advertising for calorie-dense nutrient-poor foods.
- Local policy options include restrictions on marketing of unhealthy foods to children in schools, food and convenience stores, fast food and other restaurants, and other community locations.
- State attorneys general can take action against unfair marketing practices.
- The World Health Organization recommends restrictions on the marketing or foods and non-alcoholic beverages to children.