Saturday, January 17, 2009

FTC, Schools, and the Dairy Industry Partner to Prey on Children of Color

Milk industry associations promote milk consumption in schools through branded refrigeration equipment, cafeteria posters, and in-class supplies. In California high schools, one milk board promoted the “Got Milk? Gravity Tour,” an extreme sports tour sponsored in association with the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. Another milk marketer distributed its celebrity milk mustache (“Got Milk?”) posters for display in school cafeterias. In addition, it sent to schools large (“truck sized”) posters, static clings, and banners in connection with its teen-directed promotional campaign. School posters also supported the campaign’s online auction, which featured various items likely to appeal to teenagers. The milk marketer made side panel art – featuring animated teen characters playing the guitar or sports, drinking milk, or cheerleading – available to milk processors for use on small containers for sale in schools. In addition, it advertised its SAMMY (“Scholar Athlete Milk Mustache of the Year”) scholarship award in high schools.

The dairy industry has distributed educational materials to schools about nutrition, fitness, wellness, and other aspects of child or teen development; often, these materials were branded or promoted particular products or nutritional icon programs. Educational materials were sometimes accompanied by premiums, such as branded pencils, posters, activity sheets, or soccer balls.

Milk marketers examined the appeal of certain media and the potential success of advertising initiatives (e.g., cross-promotions and licensed characters) among Hispanic, African-American, and Asian segments of the population, and among grade school boys as compared to girls. Media guidelines submitted by one company noted particular media buying techniques to attract African-American and Hispanic consumers as compared to the general consumer market, and research submitted by another company indicated that ads with a strong national market also perform well among Hispanics. Some research took note that product promotions involving certain licensed characters have higher awareness or performance ratings among Hispanics and African Americans than do other promotions.

Market research also examined the relative performance of television commercials, cross-promotions, other advertising campaigns, and promotional concepts among girls versus boys, observing certain themes, images, characters, modes of participation, and prizes with particular gender appeal. In addition, research from milk marketers examined issues such as milk consumption and motivation to eat breakfast among adolescent girls, and milk consumption among Hispanics and African Americans, indicating, for example, relative levels of milk consumption in school districts with higher proportions of Hispanic and African-American students.

One milk marketer reported gender-focused celebrity print advertising directed to either girls or boys, with higher expenditures for boy-targeted advertising, apparently due to the higher cost of media required to reach that audience.

Milk marketers have partnered with government bodies, media companies, non-profit organizations, and other entities to promote nutrition and physical activities for children and teens. One sickening example of collaboration: The FTC's partnering with the American Dairy Association’s “Got Milk” campaign and the “3-A-Day” dairy program. The Dairy Industry even has a campaign that aims to increase consumption of milk by teens that includes a teen-targeted interactive website, milk-mustache celebrity endorsements, and in-school posters.

The FTC notes that although their initiatives require participants to “reduce” their use of licensed characters in advertising directed to children, most participants have pledged to use such characters only in child-directed advertising that promotes healthy dietary choices; however, seeing as the FTC believes milk to be a healthy dietary choice, not much will change, especially the continued use of our tax payer money to--subsidize Factory Farming--promote our government’s (USDA, FDA, FTC, …) partnership with the Dairy Industry’s efforts to set children up for a lifetime of illnesses.

Hundreds of thousands of schools across America only receive reimbursement from the National School Lunch Program when they push milk and life-size Milk Mustache and "Body By Milk" posters adorn their lunchroom walls.

This is the same NSL program that served-up 143 million pounds-- at risk for mad cow disease--of downer dairy cows to children as documented in the January recall of "beef" supplied by Westland Hallmark who won awards as the #2 supplier to the school lunch program.

"The consumption of dairy, especially at the younger ages, is a problem," said Campbell which includes health consequences like higher risks of prostate, uterine, breast and endometrial cancers, osteoporosis and a "threefold higher risk of colon cancer."

Yet the pro dairy message on the school posters--which feature sports figures and popular musicians and arrive unsolicited from the National Dairy Council--is misleading and harmful testified Dr. T. Colin Campbell on the basis of decades of his National Institutes of Health-funded research.

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