Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulatory Efforts, Project No. P094513 #00335

Submission Number:
Jeff Harness
Western Massachusetts Center for Healthy Communities
Initiative Name:
Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulatory Efforts, Project No. P094513
Dear Secretary Vilsack, Chairman Leibowitz, Director Frieden, and Commissioner Hamburg: I appreciate your efforts through the Interagency Working Group (IWG) to reduce unhealthy food marketing to children. I am in strong support of uniform food marketing standards that will prioritize children's health, support parents, and catalyze industry to take greater responsibility for marketing strategies. Each day I lead a small staff of public health professionals who provide technical support and training to community health projects and coalitions to increase healthy eating and activie living (and other topics such as tobacco control and substance abuse). I work very closely with some of the poorest and most exploited members of the community and watch with awe and inspiration as they try to fight back and reclaim their neighborhoods, institutions, and society from the grip of food marketers. I was recently at a hearing on child nutrition and witnessed the representative from Coca Cola proclaim that, sadly, if the nutrition standards were changed they would no longer be able to provide financial support to after school programs. this is exactly the type of manipulation that needs to be reigned in. But, parents can't do it all alone. And they shouldn't have to. The industry tactic of touting individual choice is a long one. Maybe you remember the "Freedom to Choose" slogan of the tobacco industry. The modern family with children is exhausted. They are working long hours, struggling to keep it together financially, and vulnerable to exploitation by industry. Are people really nothing more than commodities to be used for corporation financial gain That is not my world view, but it does seem to be how too many (certainly not all) corporations act. This is why we need government regulation and oversight. I urge you to establish regulations to hold industry accountable to meeting guidelines that ensure a reasonable playing field so that parents and their children have a chance in their fight to improve their communities and their lives. I agree with IWG's requirement that foods marketed to children contain real-food ingredients like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, while limiting harmful nutrients such as sodium, added sugar and saturated fat. I also strongly support the IWG's comprehensive view of marketing to children, covering the wide range of approaches companies use, including online and digital mechanisms. I thank the IWG for its strong nutrition and marketing guidelines, and urge you to finalize them by the end of the year. The health of America's children hangs in the balance, and I urge you not to bow to industry pressure when the stakes are so high. Sincerely, Jeff Harness