In the final presentation of the FTC’s forum, “Sizing Up Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity,” the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children presented tentative proposed nutritional standards for the advertisement of food products to children (defined as ages 2-17). The Working Group was commissioned by Congress in the Spring of 2008 and is made up of representatives from the FTC, FDA, CDC and USDA.
The Working Group created three “Standards” to determine what food products should and should not be marketed to children. “Standard I” is meant to encourage the promotion of nutritious foods in children’s diets. Standard I foods, such as 100% fruit juice, 100% nonfat and low fat milk and yogurt or 100% whole grains, will have no recommended marketing restrictions.
For foods not falling into Standard I, the Working Group created “Standards II & III.” If a product meets both Standards II and III, the Working Group recommends permitting marketing of the product to children. Standard II foods must meaningfully contribute to a healthful diet and are defined as foods that either contain 50% by weight of certain nutritional items (such as extra lean meat, fruits or vegetables) or foods that contain sufficiently high levels of the daily recommended serving of certain nutritional items (such as whole grains, fruit, nuts or seeds). Even if a product satisfies Standard II, it must still satisfy Standard III to receive the recommendation of permissible marketing to children. Standard III places a limit on unfavorable nutrients such as saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium.
The Working Group is seeking further input on a number of questions such as whether there should be separate standards for differing age groups and whether other ingredients such as caffeine and nonsugar sweeteners should be included as well as the treatment of food served in chain restaurants. The proposed guidelines, however, make an aggressive attempt at pushing the food industry farther than it has ever been to meet uniform heightened nutritional standards before advertising products to children.
The Working Group’s report is due to Congress in July 2010 and its recommendations will be published early next year for comment in the Federal Register. The panel stressed that the presented recommendations will not constitute a regulatory proposal or serve as a substitute for existing policy, laws or dietary guidelines. Rather, the standards will serve as a guide for the food industry for appropriate marketing of food products to children.
For a more detailed breakdown of the working group’s recommended standards, please click here.