Junk Food Crackdown: Feds Draw Up Strict Standards For Marketing to Kids

Post by: Aleda

As a mother of two small children, I absolutely dread every single food commercial that my kids may come across enticing them to beg, jump, and sometimes scream for me to buy some new junk food because it has princesses or cars on the box and shows a group of kids having the best time of their lives consuming things that I can only assume are mostly chemicals that really do nothing for them other than increase their chances of obesity or diabetes.  Rest assured, dear reader, that these items are rarely purchased, but it’s not unusual for me to lose a little bit of my sanity in the grocery store aisle battle.

Exhibit A: The ever rare battle of gross cereals lost to weird tie-dyed Trix. (Mom hangs head in shame).

It looks like there may be some new regulations on food marketed to children ages 2-17 that would make progress in redefining what it means to provide a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet, if the USDA would sign of on the new guidelines.

From a July 8th Huffington Post article titled Junk Food Crackdown: Feds Draw Up Strict Standards For Marketing to Kids:

Is the federal government preparing to impose strict new standards on the food industry and how it markets junk food to kids?

On Wednesday, BNET pointed to an interagency document, from the FTC, FDA, CDC, and USDA proposing new nutritional standards for food marketed to children ages 2-17. Sugary fruit juices and fatty foods would be off limits, and could not be aimed at children. According to the new guidelines, foods marketed to kids must actually include food.

While the USDA did help to write the guidelines, they’re the only agency who hasn’t signed off on the proposal, reports BNET:

So what’s the status of these standards? Nobody knows. They were presented at a meeting in December 2009 and were supposed to be finalized by February or March. Both the FTC and the FDA have reportedly signed off on them, but the USDA has not, leading some watchdog groups to speculate that the food industry has unleashed a lobbying effort aimed at its friends in the Agriculture Department. No one from the food industry was present at the meeting in December.

For years, the food industry has tried to avoid reforms that would have imposed stricter requirements on the products they aim at children.

A section titled “Meaningful Contribution to a Healthful Diet” explains some of the new standards that the agencies came up with:

Foods marketed to children must provide a meaningful contribution to a healthful diet.

Option A:
Food must contain at least 50% by weight of one or more of the following: fruit; vegetable; whole grain; fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt; fish; extra lean meat or poultry; eggs; nuts and
seeds; or beans1 egg or egg equivalent

Option B:
Food must contain one or more of the following per RACC:
0.5 cups fruit or fruit juice
0.6 cups vegetables or vegetable juice
0.75 oz. equivalent of 100% whole grain
0.75 cups milk or yogurt; 1 oz. natural cheese; 1.5 oz.
processed cheese
1.4 oz. meat equivalent of fish or extra lean meat or
0.3 cups cooked dry beans
0.7 oz. nuts or seeds

Now, do I think these new standards will revolutionize the way our kids eat processed, easily available foods?  Of course not.  I’m sure that within some of these confusing and convoluted requirements the lords of packaged crap like Kellog’s and Nestle will find a way to meet new standards or their equivalents, whatever that may actually mean, and still inject a bunch of frightening crap into their deliciously addictive treats.  And that’s not to say that I never ever buy or eat said deliciously addictive treats, but I can say that it is kept to a serious minimum.  That said, I do think these new standards would be a small step in the right direction, and when we live in a culture where the food industry gets away with doing gross amounts harm to the health of Americans (and any other country they export to) I’ll take my victories where I can get them.  Yes, I believe baby steps are better than no steps.

I can only hope that the USDA will let the health benefits of these new regulation proposals outweigh the calls from food industry lobbyists.  I know I know, I can also hope for flying unicorns, which may be just as likely as consumers winning over lobbyists.  But with new statistics showing that my kid’s generation will be the first to have a life expectancy shorter than that of their parents, and that as many as one in three will end up with diabetes, a concerned mother can dream, right?

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