Childhood obesity continues to be one of the most serious and costly public health issues facing the United States. Over the past three decades, rates of obesity have more than doubled for children ages 2 to 11 and more than tripled for teens ages 12 to 18. As a result, 32 percent of children are now overweight or obese, with 17 percent falling in the obese range. While many factors contribute to these dramatic increases in obesity, children’s poor diets play a significant role. The top three sources of calories in children’s diets are grain-based desserts, pizza, and soda/energy/sports drinks. Children are consuming too little whole grain, vegetables, fruits, milk, and healthy oils and falling short on important nutrients like fiber, potassium, Vitamin D, and calcium. At the same time, children consume too many calories from added sugars, solid fats, and refined grains, and take in too much sodium.
The Federal Trade Commission recognizes that tackling obesity and improving children’s diets is a challenging task that requires effort from all segments of society. The Commission believes that food marketers and the media can play a meaningful role in that effort by applying their marketing power and creative skills to encourage children to make better food choices and be more physically active. The Commission is encouraged by the steps that many companies are already taking and the significant progress that has been made since the Commission, jointly with the Department of Health and Human Services, held its first workshop on food marketing and childhood obesity in July 2005.
In 2008, the Commission published its first study of the marketing of foods and beverages to children and teens. Conducted at the request of Congress, that study analyzed data from public and non-public sources to provide a comprehensive assessment of marketing expenditures and activities directed toward children (ages 2-11) and teens (ages 12-17) by 44 food and beverage producers, marketers, and quick-service restaurants (QSRs) in the United States during 2006. The timing of that study was propitious because the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI)–a major self-regulatory effort to change the nutritional profile of foods and beverages marketed to children–was launched at the end of 2006. Thus, the 2006 data became the baseline for measuring the impact of voluntary industry efforts to modify food marketing to children. At the conclusion of its 2008 report, the Commission made a number of recommendations to the food and beverage industry, as well as media and entertainment companies. The Commission also committed itself to continued monitoring of food marketing to children and to conducting a follow-up study in the future to assess the impact of industry self-regulatory efforts.
This report describes the results of the follow-up study. To gather data from three years after the baseline data collection, in August 2010, the Commission issued an Order to File Special Report (Special Order) (attached as Appendix B) to 48 food and beverage manufacturers, dis-