Markey urges companies to follow Kellogg's lead

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — In response to The Kellogg Co.’s decision to adopt nutrition standards for the foods it markets to children and to place limits on the use of licensed characters, Representative Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, has submitted letters to The Coca-Cola-Co.; General Mills, Inc.; Kraft Foods Inc.; McDonald’s Corp.; and PepsiCo, Inc. urging similar initiatives.

"While parents and families have an undeniable responsibility to steer their children toward healthy choices, the Institute of Medicine has linked the current unhealthy trend toward poor nutrition and childhood obesity in our country to the prevalence of television advertisements for fast food, junk food, sugared cereals, and other foods wholly lacking in nutritional value," Mr. Markey said. "If this trend continues, our children could be the first in generations to enjoy shorter life expectancies than their parents. These companies are some of the world’s largest food and beverage marketers, and together they have the power to play a significant role in solving the childhood obesity problem through socially responsible advertising practices. I urge them to follow Kellogg’s lead."

Mr. Markey, who will chair a hearing on June 22 entitled "Images Kids See on the Screen," asked each company to commit at least the same standards as Kellogg, and to outline additional steps that may be necessary to safeguard children from junk food advertisements during children’s television programming.

In his letters to each company, Mr. Markey gave the companies credit for undertaking efforts as members of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative to shift the mix of advertising messages to children 12 and under to encourage healthier dietary changes and healthy lifestyles, but noted the voluntary commitments "are inferior to those announced by Kellogg."

"In short, Kellogg — which is a member of the same initiative — has vaulted ahead of the rest of the food and beverage industry," Mr. Markey wrote. "Indeed, Kellogg’s voluntary commitments demonstrate that food and beverage companies can market their products to children in a socially responsible way."

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