The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has said it has found no evidence that flavoured malt beverages (FMBs), also known as malternatives, are being intentionally targeted at minors through products, packaging, or advertising.

The findings came in an FTC report called Alcohol Marketing and Advertising for the US Senate.

In March 2003, the Conferees of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees directed the Federal Trade Commission to study the impact on underage consumers of the significant expansion of ads for new malt beverages.

"The Commission's investigation of flavored malt beverages (FMBs) indicates that adults appear to be the intended target of FMB marketing, and that the products have established a niche in the adult market. The investigation found no evidence of targeting underage consumers in the FMB market," the report said.

The FTC also investigated whether the beverage alcohol industry had implemented the recommendations contained in the Commission's 1999 report to Congress regarding alcohol industry self-regulation.

It said it found that self-regulation practices in the alcohol industry had shown improvement since issuance of the 1999 Report.

The FTC said that the largest improvements had occurred in the area of ad placement. In 2002, the alcohol companies surveyed achieved 99% compliance with the standard that at least 50% of the relevant media audience be adults.

However, it said that the industry now has committed to adhere to a 70% placement standard and to implement post-placement audits.

The FTC study also revealed added industry attention to the issue of ad content.

"This area is particularly sensitive, given that minors are present in nearly every venue where ads are disseminated," it said.

And although company documents show many examples of ad concepts being rejected, and ad content being modified, to reduce the likelihood of appeal to minors, the FTC warned that "still, a visible minority of beer ads feature concepts that risk appealing to those under 21. Unless care is taken, alcohol ads targeted to young legal drinkers also may appeal to those under the legal age."

The FTC said that it continued to recommend enhanced self-regulation to address concerns about alcohol advertising's appeal to minors.

In addition it called for a comprehensive alcohol policy that would address the means by which teens obtain alcohol for consumption.