Monday, January 24, 2005

Food marketing to children


The much anticipated Institute of Medicine (IOM) workshop on food and beverage marketing to children will take place this coming Thursday, January 27. The National Academies will provide an online simulcast for those who are unable to attend. It should be lively. The agenda includes industry perspectives from Pepsico, Kraft, McDonald's, and General Mills; marketing perspectives from Nickelodeon and advertising companies; and research perspectives including Victoria Rideout from the Kaiser Family Foundation. Her Senate testimony last March eloquently surveyed the evidence linking children's media consumption with risk of obesity.

The IOM workshop and future report were discussed by senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) at the Food Research and Action Center's recent Local School Wellness Policies Briefing. The Child Nutrition bill last year included a provision requiring schools that participate in federal food programs to establish school wellness policies, including guidelines for the sale of all foods on campus. When I first heard of this provision, I thought of it as fairly weak, but a close reading of Harkin's comments actually makes the provision sound quite astute. Perhaps it is not necessary for the federal government to mandate the policy particulars for the nation's diverse school districts. All that is needed is to put the school policies on the public record. Then, in those regions of the country where parents cherish their children and children obey the laws of physiology -- whichever regions those should be -- it should be possible to make progress toward protecting children from junk food and marketing at school.

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