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Interagency Working Group Proposed Guidelines on Marketing to Children

I have three things on my mind today.

Preventobesity.net is a free networking site sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, created to “provide support to all those working to change policies and environments to help children and families eat well and move more, especially in communities at highest risk for obesity." Check it out.

Something else of interest is this year’s recently released report, "F as in Fat," done by Trust for America's Health at http://healthyamericans.org/. The direct link for the report is at http://www.rwjf.org/files/research/tfahfasinfat2011a.pdf.

Last, over the past few weeks I have been having an email conversation with Tom Forsythe, Vice President of Corporate Communications at General Mills. It started out with an email I had sent via the Center for Science in the Public Interest asking General Mills to work with, not against, the proposed guidelines for marketing food to children. The Interagency Working Group responsible for these guidelines is comprised of representatives from the FDA, FTC, USDA, and the CDC, a combination I would certainly have faith in to come up with some good principles. Their guidelines can be found at:

http://www.ftc.gov/os/2011/04/110428foodmarketproposedguide.pdf.

Mr. Forsythe replied to me with a long list of why these guidelines were totally out of line. He mentioned two studies published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, based on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, which he felt showed “that frequent cereal eaters tend to have healthier body weights overall, including kids who eat sweetened cereals.” I then asked for those studies’ citations and he actually sent them to me. [Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2003; 103: 1613-1619, and, Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2005; 105: 1383-1389. Be warned – they were both funded by General Mills.] I must give him credit for being willing to talk with me, a lowly consumer! However, those studies only showed that eating any cereal, rather than bacon, eggs, Pop-Tarts and pastries, was the healthier choice. Sorry, Mr. Forsythe, I’m not convinced.

My point here? The first email he sent to me, and everyone else who had originally emailed him through the CSPI, was very convincing, at least to the unsuspecting. The House of Representatives has already struck down the guidelines. What will the Senate do? What can we do?

There was a related editorial this weekend in the New York Times, entitled, Selling Candy to Kids.  It addresses the draft voluntary nutritional guidelines for food marketed to children.  In an excerpt from the editorial, it is expected that – “The agency (Federal Trade Commission) would substantially modify the guidelines to account for industry complaints.. the Obama administration should be doing more to limit the way unhealthy foods are sold to children.”

For the full editorial -- http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/19/opinion/selling-candy-to-kids.html?_r=1.

Susan, thank you for starting this very important discussion around the obesity epidemic.  I'd like to share a new initiative - "The Weight of a Nation" - that may interest you and other R2R community members.  Yesterday the IOM announced its partnership with HBO, CDC, NIH, the Dell Foundation and Kaiser Permanente in this national campaign that will shed light on the facts and myths of this critical public health issue and explore how obesity is impacting our nation and the health care system.  The campaign includes:

  • a series of four documentary films (to air May 14 and 15)
  • a three-part HBO Family series
  • 14 bonus short films
  • a social media campaign
  • a companion book
  • a nationwide community-based outreach campaign

I'm looking forward to watching the series and to reading the new report funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that IOM plans to publish in conjunction with the project.  This report will review progress made so far, and will provide scientifically grounded guidance to community groups, policymakers, and other concerned individuals and organizations seeking to implement obesity prevention strategies locally and at the national level.

Please let me know your thoughts on this new initiative - it will certainly raise awareness, but will it impact behavior?  Also, let me know if you'd be interested in participating in a documentary discussion to share your thoughts, ideas, and reactions after the series airs.

Happy New Year to everyone!

Alissa

Just a quick update...the report mentioned above was just released last week and can be downloaded for free from the IOM's web site at: http://iom.edu/Reports/2012/Measuring-Progress-in-Obesity-Prevention.aspx.

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