The Institute of Medicine reported in 2005 that food and beverage marketing to children and youth is “out of balance with healthful diets”. The dominant policy response in the United States has been to encourage self-regulation by the food, beverage, advertising, and media industries. From a nutrition perspective, this deference to the private sector may seem surprising. This article reviews current economic and legal perspectives on food marketing to children that are motivating the policy decision to attempt a period of self-regulation. The empirical literature on this topic has been reinvigorated by new data on marketing practices and expenditures. The article concludes by considering whether more directive policies are possible in the future.