AAF Government Report

May 11, 2012

Clark Rector Jr., Executive Vice President – Government Affairs

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IOM Report Targets Advertising

The Institute of Medicine recently released a report titled Accelerating Progress in Obesity Prevention – Solving the Weight of the Nation. The 462-page report is very comprehensive and covers virtually all aspects of the obesity problem. Not surprisingly, advertising and marketing are addressed.

The report calls upon the food, beverage, restaurant, and media industries to take broad, common and urgent voluntary action to make substantial improvements in marketing and advertising. All foods and beverages marketed to children and adolescents aged 2-17 “should support a diet that accords with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans . . . If such marketing standards have not been adopted within 2 years by a substantial majority of food, beverage, restaurant, and media companies . . . policy makers at the local, state, and federal levels should consider setting mandatory nutritional standards for marketing to this age group to ensure that such standards are implemented.”

The report references the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), but makes minimal acknowledgement of the substantial changes to advertising and marketing that have occurred since its adoption.

While it contemplates possible new marketing standards, the report makes no reference to the reality that similar “voluntary” standards proposed by the Interagency Working Group have been the subject of intense debate in recent years. In December, Congress stopped the funding for the implementation of the standards until the Federal Trade Commission conducted a cost benefit analysis as required for more traditional federal regulations. FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz has since publicly stated “it’s probably time to move on” from efforts to limit food advertising to children and said that he does not support Congressional action in that area.

The IWG report was a subject of discussion on a recent CDC Weight of the Nation panel on “Food Marketing: Impact and Effect on Children’s Dietary Preference.” Panelists included Dr. William Dietz, Director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity in the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion at the CDC; Mary Engle, head of the Division of Advertising in the FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection, and Elaine Kolish, the vice president and Director for the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative at the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The two government speakers expressed disappointment over the Congressional action requiring the cost benefit analysis. Dr. Dietz in particular reiterated his support for the IWG process and guidelines. He did have positive things to say about improvements to the CFBAI and the extent to which they approach the IWG guidelines.

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