Food for thought

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When browsing for a riveting read at the local bookstore, you might pick up a John Grisham or dive into a Stieg Larsson.  Unlike those best sellers, one author’s name that might not jump off the jacket is “Interagency Working Group.”  But in the case of the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children’s hot-off-the-presses Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulatory Efforts (try tweeting that) you really can’t judge a book by its cover.

It’s a compelling look at food, marketing, and kids’ health and outlines voluntary principles to guide industry self-regulatory efforts to improve the nutrition of what’s pitched to kids.

Congress — led by former Senator Brownback and Senator Harkin — directed the FTC, FDA, CDC, and Department of Agriculture to bring federal nutrition, health, and marketing experts into the same room to develop recommendations for the nutritional quality of food marketed to children and adolescents, ages 2 to 17.  The proposed voluntary principles are meant to encourage more effective industry self-regulation and to support parents’ efforts to get their kids to eat healthier foods.

What’s the group suggesting?

First, that by 2016, all foods in the categories most heavily marketed directly to children should provide a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet, with contributions from at least one of these food groups: fruit, veggies, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish, extra lean meat or poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, and beans.  Second, that foods marketed to kids should be formulated to minimize the content of nutrients that could have a bad impact on health or weight. With a few exceptions, they should have no more than a gram of saturated fat, no transfat, no more than 13 grams of added sugars, and no more than 210 milligrams of sodium per serving.  

They’re asking for your feedback on what they’ve proposed.  After they’ve had a chance to review comments filed on the public record, they’ll make final recommendations in a report to Congress.

Let’s be clear about one thing:  The principles suggested by the group are voluntary and don’t call for government regulation.  But it’s still important for members of the industry, public health advocates, the entertainment sector, academics, and others with a perspective to share to review the proposal and offer their insights.

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