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    Proposed Food Marketing Rules Could Harm Child Nutrition Efforts

    Trade groups issued warnings in federal testimony

    The American Frozen Food Institute (AFFI) blasted a federal interagency working group's proposed guidelines during a hearing earlier this week that the trade group fears will not only severely restrict how companies can market healthy frozen food products to children and teens, but also potentially violate current federal nutrition policy.

    The guidelines in the crosshairs of AFFI's testimony were issued last month by the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) -- which includes representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) -- and would mandate voluntary marketing principles requiring manufacturers to define ingredients and meet new targets for limiting saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars and sodium within five years.

    “America’s food and beverage companies are committed to introducing new, healthier products for kids and teens,” noted Kraig R. Naasz, president and CEO of McLean, Va..-based AFFI, in his testimony. “The voluntary introduction of 20,000 new healthy products over the last eight years is evidence of that commitment.”

    According to Naasz, the guidelines “are a misguided effort not supported by nutrition science, are out of sync with current government nutrition policy and are directly at odds with the IWG’s stated goal of promoting healthy diets.” If adopted, the effect of the guidelines would be to “handcuff frozen food companies, severely limiting how they can promote the consumption by children of a range of healthy foods, including frozen vegetables,” he asserted.

    The trade organization’s emphasized that guidelines overlook long-established nutrition science and contradict current USDA and FDA nutrition standards. The guidelines would ban advertising of foods currently permitted under such USDA programs as the National School Lunch Program, the Special Nutrition Assistance Program, and the Women, Infants and Children program, in addition to products FDA has explicitly authorized for promotion using specific health claims.

    AFFI further stressed that while IWG’s proposed guidelines are designated as “voluntary” in nature, media companies would be asked to avoid advertising not aligned with the principles, and noncompliance would be interpreted as a signal that mandatory regulation was necessary.

    Other organizations offered their opinions as well. Many products considered "better for you" wouldn’t be included under the new guidelines, Scott Faber, VP of federal affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), was quoted as saying in Adweek. “Limiting marketing of healthy foods, including most yogurt, soups, vegetable juices and many cereals … will not help Americans identify healthier options and build healthy diets,” Faber noted.

    The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) also spoke out against the proposed guidelines, while the American Academy of Pediatrics threw its support behind them.

    GMA's Faber and ANA EVP, government relations Dan Jaffe, joined by Lee Sanders,  SVP, government relations & public affairs at the American Bakers Association, reiterated and amplified their position against the proposed guidelines in a press conference held May 26.

    Comments on the guidelines are due July 14.
     

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