While Industries Lobby against Voluntary Kid Nutrition Guidelines, Foster Care for the Obese Is Proposed

Friday, July 15, 2011
The federal government is attempting to establish voluntary guidelinesvoluntary—for companies to follow when it comes to food marketed to children. The standards would not be enforceable by federal regulators, who merely seek healthier nutrition for kids.
And yet corporate America is spending millions to kill the idea.
Dubbed the “Sensible Food Policy Coalition,” the nation’s biggest food makers, fast-food chains and media companies are ganging up on four U.S. government agencies working to develop the guidelines. Key players in the group include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Viacom, Time Warner, General Mills, Kellogg and Pepsi.
About $6.6 million was spent on lobbying by the coalition in the first quarter of this year.
The guidelines seek to reduce salt, added sugars and fats in foods and drinks targeted to children.
Congress called for the development of the voluntary standards in bipartisan legislation carried by conservative Senator Sam Brownback (now the governor of Kansas) and liberal Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. The bill directed four agencies to carry out the task: the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Child obesity has tripled in the past 30 years, affecting an estimated 17% of young people. And if voluntary methods don’t work to control the diets of children, an alternative process has been suggested.
A controversial editorial by two researchers in the Journal of the American Medical Association on Wednesday recommended that the government should have the right to put severely obese children in foster care.
“State intervention may serve the best interests of many children with life-threatening obesity, comprising the only realistic way to control harmful behaviors,” wrote Lindsey Murtagh of the Harvard School of Public Health and David Ludwig of Children's Hospital in Boston.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, Ken Broder
Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles to Guide Industry Self-Regulatory Efforts (Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children) (pdf)
State Intervention in Life-Threatening Childhood Obesity (by Lindsey Murtagh and Dr. David S. Ludwig, Journal of the American Medical Association)


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