Government eases food marketing proposal stance

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — The Interagency Working Group, which was convened in 2009 and is comprised of officials from the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Federal Trade Commission, is “substantially modifying” its recommendations for standards on the marketing of food to children and teenagers. The recommendations, which were supposed to be delivered to Congress by July 15, 2010, have come under fire from members of Congress as well as food and beverage companies.

In testimony at an Oct. 12 joint hearing of Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Health and Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, Representative Fred Upton of Michigan and chairman of the committee, said the current recommendation “appears to be a first step toward Uncle Sam planning our family meals.”

Meanwhile, Jim Baughman, senior marketing counsel for the Campbell Soup Co., called the definition of marketing to children and adolescents “inappropriately broad,” and said dictating voluntary standards to industry “will be less effective than genuine self-regulation, which is the only practicable way to achieve meaningful changes in foods marketed to children.”

“We food makers do not want to make it more difficult for parents when they try to get their children to eat their vegetables and whole grains,” Mr. Baughman said.

Speaking on behalf of the F.T.C. and the I.W.G., David C. Vladeck, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection of the F.T.C., said the Commission has taken a “fresh look” at the marketing recommendations and is contemplating revising them to more narrowly focus on marketing techniques used most extensively to market to children. To that end, it has been suggested that the focus age group be narrowed to children aged 2 to 11 instead of up to age 17.

Additionally, Mr. Vladeck said the Commission does not expect to recommend that food companies change their packaging or remove brand equity characters from food products that don’t meet nutrition recommendations.

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