Food marketers would have us believe that they are doing a fine job in marketing only healthy foods go children and youth. Yet their ideas about what is healthy might surprise you. The industry regularly markets foods like Popsicles and Spaghetti O’s to kids, and it spends billions of dollars every year doing so. Many food and beverage companies have no policy at all to limit junk food marketing to kids, and what industry policies do exist are often highly inadequate. To be sure, the nutritional quality of foods advertised to children has improved in some venues such as television. However, the food and beverage industry can do better, as the marketing of low-nutrition foods to kids and teens remains a major risk factor contributing to obesity.

Reducing junk food marketing to children should be a national priority. Fortunately, nutrition criteria and other guidelines for responsible food marketing already exist, and parents, health professionals and others can work to implement them in their communities.

There are many state and local policy options to reduce junk food marketing to children. These policy changes can be accomplished through legislation, regulation, school wellness policies, media advocacy, contracts, voluntary agreements, zoning, litigation and other approaches. Policy can be used to address junk food marketing online, in and near schools, in restaurants, and elsewhere in the community. In addition to state and local efforts, federal-level efforts are underway to change junk food marketing targeted at children through television, print, radio, and the internet.

Federal policy recommendations