Actively promote healthier choices, Administration tells food makers...
As part of the Let's Move! campaign, last year First Lady Michelle Obama called on major food manufacturers to "entirely rethink" how they advertise their products to children, in an effort to eliminate childhood obesity in a generation. During a speech to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Mrs. Obama asked Big Food to not just stop advertising foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat to kids, but to actively promote healthier foods. To meet the First Lady's goals, the Obama Administration on Thursday released a set of proposed voluntary "Principles" to guide privately held food companies in these efforts. While "voluntary" in terms of adoption, the Principles are strict and narrow in scope.
"Let’s be clear, it’s not enough just to limit ads for foods that aren’t healthy," Mrs. Obama told the food giants. "It’s going to be so critical to increase marketing for foods that are healthy. And if there is anyone here who can sell food to our kids, it’s you. You know what gets their attention...You know what gets them to drive their parents crazy in the grocery store." (Above: Mrs. Obama during her remarks)
Created by an interagency working group with members from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), FDA, USDA, and CDC, the Principles are not federal regulations. Rather, they are meant to "encourage stronger and more meaningful self-regulation by the food industry and to support parents’ efforts to get their kids to eat healthier foods," according to the FTC.
The Principles have two basic tenets: Food advertising and marketing aimed at children up to age 17 should encourage them to choose foods that "make meaningful contributions to a healthful diet from food groups including vegetables, fruit, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish, extra lean meat and poultry, eggs, nuts or seeds, and beans."
Additionally, the saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and sodium in foods marketed to children should be "limited to minimize the negative impact on children’s health and weight."
The Principles are in keeping with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, and FTC is proposing that the food industry gets on board with the self regulation by 2016; after that year, any food that contains any trans fat, more than one gram of saturated fat, more than 210 milligrams of sodium or more than 13 grams of added sugar per serving should not be advertised to children.
For sodium, the proposal includes interim targets for 2016 and final targets for 2021. Salt reduction always seem to get a longer time-frame in Obama guidelines. Walmart's voluntary commitment to the Let's Move! campaign, as well as voluntary commitments made by other major food companies to Mrs. Obama's campaign, include longer time frames for sodium reduction than for reducing fat and sugar content.
Download the "Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self Regulatory Efforts [PDF]
The FTC said it "recognizes the proposal sets ambitious goals that, if adopted, would be challenging for industry to meet," and that it understands that "a significant percentage of the products currently marketed to children would not meet the proposed nutrition principles."
“Children are strongly influenced by the foods they see advertised on television and elsewhere. Creating a food marketing environment that supports, rather than undermines, the efforts of parents to encourage healthy eating among children will have a significant impact on reducing the nation’s childhood obesity epidemic,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius when announcing the new Principles.
"Our kids didn’t learn about the latest sweets and snack foods on their own. They hear about these products from advertisements on TV, the Internet, video games, schools, many other places. And any parent knows this marketing is really effective," Mrs. Obama told the food makers last year.
Sebelius added that the Principles will "help food and beverage companies use their creativity and resources to strengthen parents’ efforts to encourage their children to make healthy choices.”
The Principles are open for a 45-day public comment period, during which time the working group will hold a half-day forum to provide stakeholders with a chance to comment in person. The forum will take place on Tuesday, May 24 in Washington, D.C. Public comments will be considered by the agencies before the final report is submitted to Congress.
Representatives from big food corporations are already protesting. It's *nice* that the food industry now knows what the Administration expects from them, but "voluntary" means that the principles can be ignored.
*Photo by EGK/ObamaFoodorama.com