Douglas MacMillan, “Alcohol, Then Tobacco, Now Fast Food?,” BusinessWeek, June 30, 2009
“Industry critics compare the intent of fast-food companies to that of cigarette makers, who first came under attack for marketing to children decades ago,” writes BusinessWeek’s Douglas MacMillan in this article detailing the efforts of consumer advocacy groups to outlaw food advertising to children. According to MacMillan, “public criticism and mountains of data linking obesity, diabetes and other health problems to the regular consumption of fast food has [sic] caused the industry to rethink its entrenched practice of marketing to kids.” His overview cites the creation of the Children’s Food & Beverage Initiative under the auspices of the Council for Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), which requires signatories to limit their advertising to children and promote food considered healthy by the Food and Drug Administration.
This initiative, however, has apparently failed to deter groups like Corporate Accountability International, which has taken up the banner against fast-food companies. “Both the tobacco and fast-food industries have clearly identified young people as really important markets for their business,” said a spokesperson for the consumer watchdog, which has advocated additional government intervention as the economic recession has increased fast-food sales. “The short-term value of people buying fast food more regularly is only going to create a heavier burden for individuals and society.”
The article also tracks a growing movement among lawmakers and regulators to further consider regulating fast-food advertising aimed at children. “Whether or not food and beverage marketers are part of the problem – and in my view, we all share some responsibility – they have to be part of the solution,” stated Federal Trade Commission Chair Jon Leibowitz in remarks made before the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee in September 2008.