Growing awareness of the role that food and beverage advertising plays in the epidemic of childhood obesity has prompted calls for stricter oversight of advertising practices. The food and beverage industries have taken voluntary steps in this direction, but many commentators have called for increased government regulation. The mission of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) makes it an obvious candidate to lead a new regulatory effort. However, the FTC has a troubled history in the area of children's advertising regulation, and several political and legal factors constrain its ability to act. This article reviews those obstacles as well as the opportunities that exist at present to expand FTC oversight of food advertising to children. The FTC has considerable latitude to regulate individual food advertisements more rigorously, either on the basis that they are deceptive or on the basis that they are unfair. Broader rule making under the unfairness authority would require congressional intervention to expand the FTC's scope of authority, but there exist possibilities for rule making under the deception doctrine. Finally, the FTC could strengthen its efforts to encourage the food industry to regulate its own advertising practices more stringently and could provide mechanisms for making voluntary initiatives more meaningful.

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