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

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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 (embedded below), 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 beans

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
poultry
0.3 cups cooked dry beans
0.7 oz. nuts or seeds
1 egg or egg equivalent

Last month, the Federal Trade Commission publicly admonished cereal maker Kellogg's for the second in time in as many years for making unsupported health claims regarding children.

Last year the company reached a settlement with the FTC, which criticized its unfounded claims that Frosted Mini Wheats cereal was "clinically shown to improve kids' attentiveness by nearly 20%." Yet shortly after coming to an agreement on that previous marketing campaign, Kellogg launched another effort for Rice Krispies, claiming that the cereal could boost children's immunity, according to a statement released yesterday by the FTC.

Under the previous settlement, Kellogg was banned from making any claims about their products' benefits to cognitive health or function unless such claims could be backed up by scientific evidence. In light of the subsequent claims -- that Rice Krispies can boost children's immunity -- the original order has been expanded, and now more broadly bars the company from "making claims about any health benefit of any food unless the claims are backed by scientific evidence and not misleading."

READ THE NEW STANDARDS:
Interagency Working Group's Tentative Proposed Standards for Marketing Foods to Children
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