Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulatory Efforts, Project No. P094513
The Problem: According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, high caloric intake has raised childhood obesity 30% in the past 30 years. Obesity plus high fat, high sodium foods, plus low activity levels in children equal increased type-2 diabetes and hypertension during the teen years. Obesity has displaced smoking as the highest preventable cause of illness in Americans. It raises the cost of health insurance premiums and Medicaid and Medicare expenditures. Obesity is linked to the fast-food and sugary beverage industries and the advertising companies that target children audiences. With both parents working to meet a target standard of living, children do not receive the supervision they need to make healthy choices in foods. In fact, most parents aren t aware of the magnitude of harmful dietary habits in children. If the FTC restricts the fast food industry and their advertisers, these companies will lobby Congress to overturn the restriction because of its effect on the job market: people will be laid off work and salaries will decline. The FTC could educate parents and children in healthy eating and exercise habits. Many people think that if a company advertises and sells products on the open market, these products must be good for your health otherwise the FTC would not allow them to be sold. Suggested Solutions: (1) Set up a nutrition website geared to the general public, a website that is entertaining as well as educational. It must hold adults as well as children s interest. Then advertise it frequently and widely. Such a website could show the caloric and sodium content of popular fast foods and how these foods affect the body. It could also encourage people to change their grocery-shopping habits especially convenience foods for children. (2) Lobby Congress to pass legislation using tax credits or subsidies to motivate the producers of children s TV programs not to run commercials for fast foods and sugary beverages. That would be a tough and costly battle, but, if passed, it would lower the cost of medical care and lead to fewer days lost from school. (3) Encourage state governments to mandate that a nutrition course be taught in public schools, then recruit only recognized experts in nutrition to write the textbooks. Encourage school districts to return recess to public schools. Lobby Congress for tort reform so parents and their lawyers won t threaten a lawsuit every time a child falls and skins his knee on the playground. (4) Lobby state legislatures to mandate the posting of the caloric, fat, and salt contents of foods on restaurant menus. (5) Help big cities motivate grocery stores, carrying fresh fruit and vegetables to open new stores in low-income neighborhoods. Obesity has been a growing problem in America, it won t go away overnight. But look at the progress our country has made against smoking. Thirty years ago, we all thought it impossible to regulate smoking, but smoking became forbidden in public buildings and public transportation, and taxed so high that only an addict would pay for it. Kids used to consider it to be cool and grownup to smoke, now it s just a nasty, smelly habit. If the FTC could knock the glamor out of high-calorie, high-fat, and high-sodium foods, it ll motivate kids to change their eating habits. If children quit eating those foods, restaurants will stop serving them.