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WASHINGTON -- Self-regulation remains the best way to ensure marketing that fosters healthy children's lifestyles, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) said on Friday during the second day of the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Health and Human Services Public Workshop on Marketing, Self Regulation, and Childhood Obesity. However, the trade group issued several recommendations to the National Advertising Review Council and the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) to make self-regulation an "even more effective tool."
GMA's president and c.e.o., Manly Molpus, issued the statement on behalf of Campbell Soup Company; General Mills, Inc.; The Hershey Company; Kellogg Company; Kraft Foods, Inc.; Nestlé USA; PepsiCo, Inc.; Sara Lee Corporation; and Unilever United States, Inc.
GMA's recommendations were as follows:
-- Build CARU's resources and enforcement capacity.
-- Improve direct consumer access. "We believe consumers, especially parents, should have immediate and direct access to CARU for purposes of expressing concerns about specific advertisements and about children's advertising in general. That could be accomplished by establishing a toll-free consumer response line and Web site, publicizing the existence of both, and responding to consumers directly regarding complaints and comments," Molpus noted.
-- Improve transparency. Said Molpus: "We believe a summary of CARU's regulatory activities should be available to the public on the CARU Web site and should include a review of complaints filed, against whom, and on what general topic, in addition to final resolutions of those complaints."
-- Broaden involvement and advice to CARU on matters of children's health by expanding the external advisory board to include parents, educators, nutritionists, fitness experts, behavioral experts, and experts on FTC and FDA policy.
-- Strengthen voluntary pre-dissemination review of ads.
-- Ensure CARU's guidelines address certain marketing practices, such as advertising contained in commercial computer games, video games, and interactive Web sites; prohibit paid product placement on children's programming; and appropriate use of third-party licensed characters in advertising.
-- Build a closer working relationship with FTC and HHS.
"In addition, we believe that government can play a role in helping support private sector initiatives to promote healthy lifestyles," Molpus noted. Specifically, GMA recommends developing an HHS program to recognize companies for promoting healthy lifestyles and maintaining federal funding for healthy lifestyle communication programs.
GMA proposed that a task force be assembled to move its ideas "swiftly forward," with a fixed deadline for finalizing an implementation plan for the agreed-upon improvements.