Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Interagency Group Proposes Principles for Marketing Food to Children

This posting was written by William Zale, Editor of CCH Advertising Law Guide.

In an effort to combat childhood obesity, a working group of four federal agencies on April 28 released for public comment a set of proposed voluntary principles that can be used by industry as a guide for marketing food to children. The text of the interagency proposal and a related FTC statement appear at CCH Trade Regulation Reporter ¶50,266.

Congress directed the Federal Trade Commission—together with the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture—to establish an Interagency Working Group of federal nutrition, health, and marketing experts.

Congress tasked the Working Group with developing a set of principles to guide industry efforts to improve the nutritional profile of foods marketed directly to children ages 2-17 and to tap into the power of advertising and marketing to support healthful food choices.

The proposal is designed to encourage children, through advertising and marketing, to choose foods that:
 Make a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet; and

 Contain limited amounts of nutrients that have a negative impact on health or weight (saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and sodium).

Template for Uniform Principles

The proposal seeks to advance current voluntary industry efforts by providing a template for uniform principles that could dramatically improve the nutritional quality of the foods most heavily marketed to children—and the health status of the next generation.

The agencies recognize that the goals for industry are ambitious, and that adopting the principles will require phased implementation over a reasonable time. Indeed, marketing that shifts from focusing on foods of little or no nutritional value—like cookies, candy and sugar-sweetened soda—to foods that are more healthy—like whole grain cereals, low-fat yogurt, and peanut butter—can have a significant impact on public health.

The agencies believe the proposed principles can help guide the food industry in determining which foods would be appropriate and desirable to market to children to encourage a healthful diet—and which foods the industry should voluntarily refrain from marketing to children.

According to the proposal, by the year 2016, all food products within the categories most heavily marketed directly to children and adolescents ages 2-17 should meet two basic nutrition principles. As industry develops new products and reformulates existing products, it should focus its efforts on foods most heavily marketed to children. These include breakfast cereals; snack foods; candy; dairy products; baked goods; carbonated beverages; fruit juice and non-carbonated beverages; prepared foods and meals; frozen and chilled deserts; and restaurant foods.

Principle A: Meaningful Contribution to a Healthful Diet

Foods marketed to children should provide a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet, with contributions from at least one of the following food groups:
 Fruit

 Vegetables

 Whole grain

 Fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk products

 Fish

 Extra lean meat or poultry

 Eggs

 Nuts and seeds

 Beans

Principle B: Nutrients with Negative Impact on Health or Weight

Foods marketed to children should be formulated to minimize the content of nutrients that could have a negative impact on health or weight. With the exception of nutrients naturally occurring in food contributions under Principle A (for example, the saturated fat and sodium naturally occurring in low-fat milk would not be counted), foods marketed to children should not contain more than the following amounts of saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and sodium.

 Saturated Fat: 1 g or less per Reference Amount Customarily Consumed (RACC) and 15% or less of calories

 Trans Fat: 0 g per RACC

 Added Sugars: No more than 13 g of added sugars per RACC

 Sodium: No more than 210 mg per serving

The summarized goals are for individual foods. The RACC, established by federal regulation, is not necessarily the same as the labeled serving size. The proposal includes additional recommendations for foods with a small serving size and for main dishes and meals. The proposal also calls for additional reductions in sodium by the year 2021.

FTC Statement

In an April 28 statement, the FTC expressed its belief that "voluntary industry adoption of the Working Group’s proposal will produce tangible benefits by shifting children’s food marketing away from foods of little or no nutritional value toward more healthful foods." The FTC "also believes that the voluntary approach continues to be preferable to government-imposed restrictions on food marketing to children."

FTC Chairman's Remarks

“To their credit, some of the leading companies are already reformulating products and rethinking marketing strategies to promote healthier foods to kids,” said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “But we all have more work to do before we can tip the scales to a healthier generation of children. This proposal encourages all food marketers to expand voluntary efforts to reduce kids’ waistlines.”

Request for Comments

Interested parties may submit comments electronically or in paper form through June 13, 2011. Comments filed in electronic form should be submitted here.

Comments filed in paper form should include the appropriate reference—either “Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children: Proposed Nutrition Principles: FTC Project No. P094513,” or “Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children: General Comments and Proposed Marketing Definitions: FTC Project No. P094513” both in the text and on the envelope.

Submissions should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex W), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

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