FTC Veteran to Review Ads for Kids

Monday, February 6, 2006

The advertising industry has chosen a Washington insider to help determine how companies should promote their products, particularly food and beverages, to children.

Joan Z. "Jodie" Bernstein, a former director of the Federal Trade Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection, will head a review of the industry's voluntary guidelines for children's advertising.

The review by the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) -- the industry's self-regulatory arm -- comes two months after a national science panel called on the industry to revise and expand its guidelines for marketing of food and beverages to children. Noting that most food products promoted to children were high in calories, sugar, salt and fat and low in nutrients, the Institute of Medicine said there was strong evidence linking television advertising to obesity.

CARU's guidelines were written 30 years ago. Increasingly consumer advocates, regulators and some food industry officials have urged changes, seeking limits on online games promoting products, paid product placement in television programs and the licensing of popular characters to sell food.

"This is the first full-scale examination of the CARU guidelines. All issues will be reviewed and considered" and opinions of all interested parties will be welcome, said James R. Guthrie, president of the National Advertising Review Council, which oversees CARU. Bernstein was selected to head the review because "she's well respected as a champion for consumers," Guthrie said.

Bernstein said she hopes to "facilitate a wide-ranging debate toward a set of recommendations especially addressing the impact of obesity."

-- Caroline E. Mayer

© 2006 The Washington Post Company