'World News' Promotes Food Police Attack on Marketing

     Knocking off iconic cereal box characters in 2007 wasn’t enough for the self-appointed “food police.” Now they want characters like that to promote only healthy foods.


     The July 29 “World News with Charles Gibson” gave a one-sided account of food marketing, parroting the claims of a liberal activist “consumer group” and ignoring the role of parental responsibility in making food purchases for children.


     “The ads are everywhere – on television, online and on the packaging itself,” ABC correspondent Lisa Stark said. “Many feature movie or cartoon characters luring children to foods many consider unhealthy.”


      Stark even interviewed children from a YMCA camp in Washington, D.C., who accused companies of trying to “like, brainwash” kids with targeted marketing.


     “And all those characters hocking the products, they’re effective, too. So are any giveaways,” Stark said. “Many food companies, under public pressure, are now changing how they market to those under age 12.”


     The segment didn’t include any parents – the ones actually responsible for purchasing food for children.


     It also didn’t offer a statement from the industry or include any company that markets their products. However, it did include two “experts” – one from the Better Business Bureau and one from the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an activist non-profit organization that aggressively promotes the regulation of food.


     Elaine Kolish of the Better Business Bureau said companies are holding themselves to nutrition standards and focusing advertising dollars on healthier foods. But Stark turned toward the government for more regulation because “consumers groups say those voluntary standards aren’t nearly good enough.”


     “So the fast food companies don’t have sodium standards,” Margo Wootan of CSPI said. “The cereal manufactures have very weak sugar standards. Coke doesn’t consider the front of vending machines in schools to be marketing.”


     Stark acknowledged the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t link marketing to childhood obesity, even though it’s a position CSPI has taken for decades. But she echoed a draconian warning from the FTC to food marketers.


     “The FTC would not go so far as to link food marketing to childhood obesity, but did warn companies: use those ad dollars to promote only healthy food,” Stark said.