Alert: April 28, 2011

April 28, 2011

To:                   AAF Members
From:               Clark Rector, Executive Vice President-Government Affairs
Re:                   Nutrition Standards for Foods Marketed to Children

An Interagency Working Group of the federal government has released a second version of proposed voluntary nutrition standards; for foods marketed to children ages 17 and under.  This fact sheet released by the Working Group gives an overview of the standards.
While some aspects of the recommendations differ from the original version, the recommended maximum levels of certain nutrients in foods has remained virtually unchanged.  For individual foods, the standards recommend:

  • 1 g or less saturated fat and 15% or less of calories from saturated fat per RACC (reference amount customarily consumed)
  • 0 g trans fat per RACC
  • No more than 13 g of added sugars per RACC
  • No more than 210 mg sodium per serving

The revised recommendations call for a five year phase-in period for the industry to meet the standards (the sodium level is an interim target – with a final target of 140 mg per serving after ten years).

The recommendations state that foods marketed to children should provide a “meaningful contribution” from one of a number of specified food groups, but unlike the original version do not specify minimum amounts to be qualified as a meaningful contribution.

Perhaps the most significant change in the new recommendations is the recognition of the difference between children 11 and under and adolescents between 12 and 17.  In its accompanying statement, the Federal Trade Commission acknowledges that the older group is more capable of understanding the intent of marketing and, as such, the recommendations for marketing to them should be narrower in scope, perhaps being limited to in-school marketing and social media.

Despite these changes, the recommendations remain very troublesome and unworkable.  The nutrition standards are so stringent that they would apply to the vast majority of products advertised today – including such items as yogurt, soups and most cereals.  There is no current research which establishes a link between marketing of food products and obesity, so there is no foundation to believe that this extreme proposal would work.

It is still unclear exactly how marketing to children will be interpreted, and hundreds of television shows would likely be affected.

These proposals are unnecessary.  Most food manufactures have joined with the Better Business Bureau to create the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.  Under this self-regulatory program, companies pledge to advertise to children under 12 only products that are consistent with federal nutrition guidelines.  Some companies have pledged not to advertise at all to children under 12.

The Interagency Working Group (IWG) that released these principles consists of the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  The first version of the proposal was released in December 2009 with this revision originally anticipated in July, 2010.

The IWG has invited comments on the proposal, and includes many specific questions that may be addressed.  Comments are due by June 13, 2011.
Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any comments or questions.