New Principles for Food Marketing Presented for Comment

This post was written by John P. Feldman and Michael L. Sacks.

The Interagency Working Group of Food Marketed to Children (“Working Group”) today has requested comments on proposed nutritional principles that it hopes will help in the fight against childhood obesity. The Working Group, established in 2009 by the FTC, FDA, CDC, and USDA at Congress’s request, hopes that by 2016 industry actors will meet its two-pronged self-regulatory vision: a marketing environment in which advertisers encourage kids to choose foods that make for a healthy diet; and a production environment in which food companies will police limits on the fat, sugar, and sodium content of their products marketed to kids.

In formulating its principles, the Working Group set its sights on the most heavily marketed foods to children and adolescents, ages 2-17: breakfast cereals, snack foods, candy, dairy products, baked goods, carbonated beverages, fruit juice and non-carbonated beverages, prepared foods and meals, frozen and chilled desserts, and restaurant foods. In a press release, the Association of National Advertisers, calling the proposals “sweeping” and “overly restrictive,” criticized the Working Group for inappropriately “treating teenagers as if they were young children” and employing “limited and outdated” data.

Despite these differences, the Working Group and Food Marketers can agree that these voluntary proposed principles respect industry’s preference for and progress in its self-regulatory efforts to keep our kids healthy.

Action item? Take time now to determine just how divorced from business reality these principles are for your company. If they end up suggesting that a formulation tweak would be all that it takes to be a poster child for the Working Group then go for it. If they suggest to you that it will be impossible or very costly to reformulate then get set to comment. Objective, quantifiable data is needed to make your comment useful. So, do the analysis as soon as possible and let's see if what they're imagining has any semblance of reason.

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