I thought I would weigh in on the recent proposed Federal Trade Commission's rules for limiting food marketing to children.
To me this is a fascinating debate. One one side you've got food writers like Marion Nestle arguing (somewhat predictably) that the new rules don't go far enough. Other bloggers are a bit more circumspect and are willing to consider abstract but important aspects of the debate, like unintended consequences, free speech issues and so on. And, sadly (uh, and also somewhat predictably), over at the Huffington Post we have a totally information-free post in which the author jokes about playing games on the Lucky Charms website.
Okay. As usual with any political issue, you ain't gonna find much nuance out there. Most people have agendas that they're pushing, and those agendas typically come from one of two extremes: YAY! More regulation! Corporations are evil! or BOO! get the government out of my life and get off my lawn!
For my part, sure, I would love to see less advertising in general. And long-time CK readers especially know about my particularly insane hatred of overpriced, hyper-sweetened cereals--a food marketed to children like no other, coincidentally. So, yes, I have a bit of a personal axe to grind in this debate too.
And heck, making the contra-argument on this subject is a little like being against puppies. It is not an easy position to take. (Wait, don't you care about kids? You're in favor of evil corporations taking advantage of our children, you bad, bad person you?)
To be honest, I don't really know where I stand on this issue. So instead of advocating a position, I'm going to ask you, readers, a few open-ended questions, in the hopes that we can collectively foster an open-minded and nuanced debate of our own.
I've said this before and I'll say it again, the readers here at Casual Kitchen are as articulate and thoughtful as anybody can find anywhere (did I mention for the millionth time how grateful I am for this?). With that in mind, what are your thoughts on the following questions?
1) Is it children who actually buy these foods? (PS: This is a bit of a trick question.)
2) Will rules like these actually change peoples' behavior?
3) What are the possible unintended consequences that might result from enforcing guidelines like this? (Keeping in mind that it's notoriously difficult to perceive a law's unintended consequences when those consequences are unlikely for you.)
4) What are the free speech issues involved here?
5) Is it appropriate to hand responsibility for our food choices over to our government? And to what extent is it appropriate that we give away our power to make choices in the face of advertising--or in the face of our children's demands for certain foods?
6) Are we creating rules to make ourselves feel like we've solved a problem?
Readers, here's your chance to sound off--on any or all of these questions. What do you think?
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