December 4, 2003

Legislative Activity


Date:December 4, 2003

To:AAF Members

From:Jeff Perlman, EVP-government affairs
Clark Rector, SVP-state government affairs
Jennifer Akridge, manager-government affairs

Re:Senator Lieberman Attacks Food Advertising


Senator Joe Lieberman is attempting to make food advertising to children an issue in the presidential race. The following statement is taken from the official Lieberman for President Web site www.joe2004.com. Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any comments or questions.

The Valuing Families Agenda: Empowering Our Parents and Protecting Our Children
(December 4, 2003)

Joe Lieberman's Plan to Limit Junk Food Marketing to Kids

OVERVIEW

American parents are working hard to bring their kids up right. But they're facing increasingly tough odds. Budgets are tight — health care, child care and college costs are rising astronomically. Schedules are even tighter — parents have 22 fewer hours with their kids than they did 30 years ago. And if that weren't enough, corporations and the culture are making a hard job even harder by bombarding children with aggressive marketing of products that are not good for them.

Over the last decade, Joe Lieberman has done his best to get in parents' corner as they try to raise healthy kids and give them strong values. He has stood up to companies that market violent adult video games, movies, and music to children. He has spurred more research into the developmental effects of electronic media on kids; pushed through legislation putting V-chips in television sets; and prodded the video game industry to adopt a ratings system to help parents make informed choices.

Today, Joe Lieberman is confronting a new challenge to parents: the aggressive marketing of junk food to young children, which many believe is contributing to America's unprecedented obesity epidemic.

THE PROBLEM

The scope of the problem is clear: obesity is responsible for some 300,000 deaths in this country every year. And this trend appears to be only getting worse. Over the last 30 years, the rate of obesity has doubled among children and tripled among teenagers. Fully a quarter of five-to-10-year olds in the United States show early warning signs for heart disease, high blood pressure and elevated blood cholesterol. And the incidence of Type 2 Diabetes among teens has jumped so high that it is no longer considered an adult's disease.

Despite the growing awareness of the problem, foods that feed the obesity crisis are being peddled to our children as never before. American children see an average of 10,000 food advertisements a year. And for the industry, that advertising blitz pays off. Children are consuming 200 more calories per day than they were only 15 years ago — and most of those calories come from sugar-filled foods and soft drinks. Soft drink consumption has doubled in the last 30 years.

THE SOLUTION

George W. Bush may have put a tee ball field on the White House lawn, but he has dropped the ball in addressing the broad and growing obesity crisis in our country. His Administration has done little to provide consumers with better information or stop corporations from preying on children.

Joe Lieberman knows it is not government's business to tell people what to eat. But government does have a moral obligation to parents — to get on their side and give them the facts they need to protect their children, whether the pernicious influence is violent video games or unhealthy food. As President, he will do the following:

  • Launch an FTC Investigation Into Junk Food Marketing to Children.In the 1970s, there was talk of an FTC investigation of the food industry's targeting of advertisements to children. That never happened. Now the need for an investigation is far clearer--advertising aimed at children has doubled in the last ten years, with the food industry spending $13 billion a year to reach them and many advocates pointing to unfair practices targeting young children. Joe Lieberman will direct the FTC to investigate these marketing practices and the impact of this targeting on the growing problem of childhood obesity. And if the FTC finds justification for intervention, he will ask them to report back with recommendations on how to limit the harm to children.
  • Require Nutritional Disclosure in Food Marketing to Kids.One way to help parents immediately is to arm them with better facts about the foods that are being targeted to their children. With that in mind, Joe Lieberman will direct the FTC to work with nutrition experts (such as the Institute of Medicine) to develop standards for the disclosure of relevant nutritional information in advertisements of foods that are routinely marketed to children particularly those that have high fat, high sugar and low nutrient levels.
  • Prevent Junk Food Sales in Public Schools.The USDA already has nutrition standards for school cafeteria meals, but none for the vending machines that compete with what the schools themselves offer. Joe Lieberman believes that in public schools, where children are captive consumers without parental supervision, we have an obligation to offer healthier food. That's why he will call on the Institute of Medicine to set nutritional standards for the foods and drinks sold in school vending machines and require the USDA to promulgate regulations based on those standards.
  • Require Nutrition Labeling. In supermarkets, nutrition labels are a valuable way for parents to make decisions about what food to buy for their children. Yet, despite the fact that more and more time-crunched families are eating out, it is difficult for parents to find clear nutritional information at the restaurants they frequent. Joe Lieberman will push to require chain restaurants to provide their customers with clear and easy access to information on menus about the calorie and nutritional content of the food they serve. And he will also work to ensure that packaging clearly displays the number of servings in each container in easily readable print, as many people mistakenly assume that each package constitutes only one serving.