Childhood Obesity, In The News

Battle Over Food Marketing Restrictions Heats Up

By Julian Pecquet
Published 10/05/11 in The Hill

Anti-obesity advocates are putting pressure on federal officials to follow through with tough voluntary guidelines for food marketing to children.

Seven advocacy groups, including the American Heart Association, are sponsoring an ad in Capitol Hill publications Thursday urging the Obama administration to “stand by kids and release strong marketing guidelines.” Four agencies proposed stringent voluntary guidelines in April but have gotten strong pushback from the food and marketing industries who argue that the guidelines would infringe on their freedom of speech rights – even though they’re voluntary.

Advocates say the final guidelines are expected within the next few weeks, and they’re worried the administration will water them down under pressure. The Prevention Institute is holding a tele-briefing with reporters Thursday to draw attention to the issue. And the Center for Science in the Public Interest has a form letter for people to write to the president.

“I applaud the Administration’s work to address childhood obesity,” the form letter reads. “However, for that work to be successful, it must address unhealthy food marketing to children. While a number of factors contribute to obesity and children’s poor diets, food marketing plays a key role. There is a lot of food marketing to kids and too much of it is for unhealthy foods.”

Critics say the guidelines are the wrong approach.

“Nearly everyone agrees that childhood obesity is a very serious problem in our country. However, allegedly ‘voluntary’ guidelines designed by government regulators to ‘protect children from junk food marketing’ will not get us one step closer to solving this epidemic,” said Michelle Bernard, the founder of the free-market Bernard Center for Women, Politics & Public Policy. “The smart government approach would be to provide private enterprise with incentives to increase access to healthy and affordable foods in underserved communities and educate all Americans about the importance of balanced nutrition.”

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