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NEWS RELEASE February 8, 2007

Physicians Group Asks Federal Trade Commission to Ban Cheese Ads During “SpongeBob SquarePants” and Other Television Shows Aimed at Children

Proposal Modeled After New Regulation Taking Effect Early This Year in the United Kingdom

WASHINGTON—As childhood obesity reaches record levels, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to follow the United Kingdom in banning advertisements of fatty cheese and other junk foods on television programs directed at children. In a letter sent today to FTC Secretary Donald S. Clark, PCRM nutritionist Dulcie Ward, R.D., points out that cheese is very high in saturated fat and cholesterol and, as a result, is covered under the new U.K. ban, which will go into effect early this year.

“One serving of cheddar cheese gets a whopping 73 percent of its calories from fat, which is more fat than children would get from a 3 Musketeers candy bar,” said Ms. Ward. “Just as it protects children from tobacco advertising, the Federal Trade Commission should safeguard young people from the food industry’s aggressive million-dollar ad campaigns pushing pizza, cheeseburgers, and other unhealthy food products.”

Average cheese consumption has doubled since the 1970s, and Americans now eat on average more than 30 pounds of cheese a year per person. Childhood obesity rates have also risen sharply. In 2010, nearly half the children in North America will be overweight or obese, according to a report in the International Journal of Pediatric Obesity. A 2005 Institute of Medicine report found that television advertising influences children’s food preferences and is associated with increased rates of obesity among children and youth.

The new U.K. regulations will ban the advertising of all foods classified as high in fat, salt, and sugar during children’s television programs and programs with a high percentage of viewers under the age of 16. A similar ban in the United States would prevent pizza companies, candy companies, and other makers of unhealthy food from advertising on SpongeBob SquarePants and similar shows.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Patrick Sullivan

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