Friday, January 8, 2010
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) conducted a forum in mid-December entitled ‘Sizing up Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity’. The forum focused on how to alleviate the impact that the marketing of unhealthy foods to children has on childhood obesity and subsequent diet-related diseases. One of the highlights of the forum was the release of new nutrition standards from the interagency working group that Congress requested. The working group includes members from the FDA, USDA, FTC and the CDC and utilizes the acronym 'SNAC PAC'.
All in all, the working group's recommendations appear to be a step in the right direction if adopted by the food industry and relevant agencies or policy-making bodies. First of all, the standards set forth apply to children 17 or younger as opposed to the industry's faulty definition of children at age 12 and under. Second, the recommendations utilize a new calculation for serving size (see our Advisor Marion Nestle's blog on the subject) that adjusts for average amounts actually consumed. Third, the standards more actively promote whole fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds and nuts.
However, for all of the new standards' merits there is one fatal flaw that still exists: the recommendations are completely voluntary. Therefore, it will be up to the food industry to adopt the standards. The same industry who consistently has fought tooth and nail against any meaningful reforms regarding the marketing of unhealthy foods to children including any attempt develop nutrition standards that are not rife with loopholes that continue to allow corporations to peddle mounds of junk food directly to our children.
The proposed standards should be published in the Federal Register in January and there will be a period for public comment. The recommendations are then expected to be finalized in a report to Congress in July.
Is there anyone out there who actually believes that the food industry will not use all of its might to weaken the standards and thwart the voluntary adoption of these standards?