Kids today are exposed to a barrage of marketing that promotes unhealthy food. We have an opportunity to change that for the better -- and help America's kids stay happy and healthier. The Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture make up the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG). The IWG is proposing voluntary principles to guide the food and beverage industry toward improving healthy food marketing to children, but the public comment period is closing on July 13th. These common sense principles will ensure that food marketing aimed at children will promote healthier products. It will provide food and beverage companies with a clear and consistent set of nutrition and marketing standards to help them market healthy items to kids. But the IWG needs to hear from people who want healthier food marketing to kids before the July 13 deadline.
Given the high childhood obesity rates and the impact that food marketing has on children’s health, if adopted, these standards will make an important contribution to improving the diets and the long-term health of millions of children across the country. I strongly support the proposed principles including the following:
-- Ensuring that foods marketed to kids would have to make a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet;
-- Emphasizing food groups most lacking in kids diets including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat and non fat dairy;
-- Phasing in sodium standards over time; and
-- Expanding the definition of marketing to include other marketing venues aside from television, such as text messaging, Internet, and social media outreach.
I urge the IWG to consider the following as it proceeds in finalizing this proposal:
-- Time line - the time line for implementation should be two years, versus the proposed five years. Many food companies have made strides in improving their marketing practices and product mix, and should be encouraged to continue and expedite their efforts. The sodium phase-in should still be a five-year period.
-- Food categories/calories - the marketing standards should apply to all foods marketed to kids with initial emphasis placed on the ten categories of foods most marketed and should include calorie limits as part of the criteria.
-- Scope – the scope of marketing defined by the FTC should not exclude teens from major marketing pitches such as television or product placement. The teen years are an important time to establish healthy behaviors such as healthy eating and active lifestyle habits. Any teen parent can tell you they need all the support parents can get. Do not allow teens to be subjected to more unhealthy food marketing.
-- Enforcement – media companies and food/beverage industry should be held accountable for complying with the nutrition standard. Even though the FTC standard is voluntary, implementation should not be random. The FTC should ensure there is a process for enforcement and accountability.
I applaud the IWG for its leadership on proposing these guidelines. Swift adoption by food and beverage companies will do much to help safeguard the health of American children.