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Junk food might get easier to advertise

Updated: December 17, 2011 4:08PM

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission says it is taking another look at guidelines designed to limit the marketing of unhealthy foods to kids after Congress delayed the effort.

The voluntary guidelines proposed by the government earlier this year set maximum levels of fat, sugars and sodium and ask food companies not to market foods that go beyond those levels to children ages 2 through 17. That could limit colorful cartoon characters on cereal packages, TV ads and product websites.

The food industry, backed by Republicans in Congress, has lobbied aggressively against the guidelines. They say they are too broad and would limit marketing of almost all of the nation’s favorite foods, including yogurts and many children’s cereals. Though the guidelines would be voluntary, food companies say they fear the government will retaliate against them if they don’t go along.

The delay, which would require the government to study the costs of the effort before releasing final guidelines, is buried in a massive spending bill to pay for the government’s daily operations. The House passed the measure on Friday with expected Senate approval over the weekend.

In a statement Friday, Cecelia Prewett of the FTC said that “Congress has clearly changed its mind” about the marketing guidelines and that the government “will be assessing its language and working toward congressional intent.” Congress originally asked for the guidelines in a 2009 spending bill to help combat childhood obesity.

Sen. Tom Harkin, (D-Iowa), who led the 2009 effort, said Friday that the delay “is a huge loss for our nation’s children, who will continue to be bombarded with ads for junk food and sugary soft drinks.” AP

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