Friday, July 9, 2010

Save Cheerios Not Children? Why food industry self-regulation just isn’t going to work

When it comes to marketing to children, self-regulation is never going to work, and an article in the Wall Street Journal gets to the crux of why it won’t. Elaine Kolish, vice president and director of the food industry’s Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, told Congress that the voluntary nutritional standards proposed by a group of federal agencies for what could and could not be marketed to children were too strict. "There are very few products, period, that meet these standards, whether they're primarily consumed by adults or children.”

According to the article, Kolish said that, “General Mills Inc. would be unable to gear advertising for Cheerios cereal, with 190 milligrams of sodium per serving, to children because it has more sodium than the standards would allow.”

If Cheerios doesn’t meet public health standards for sodium, shouldn’t the burden be on General Mills to come up with a formula that does, rather than expecting the standards to be lowered to meet its product line? The food industry’s answer is a resounding “No.” The industry’s position is clear—profits trump children’s health. Which is why they shouldn’t be in charge of setting nutrition standards for anyone, let alone children.

The voluntary restrictions proposed by the federal agencies last December were supposed to be made public and available for comment before reaching Congress on July 15th, but that hasn’t happened yet. The reasons for the delay have also not been made public. When and if these voluntary restrictions are put it place, it will be interesting to see if Cheerios makes the list of foods acceptable to market to children.

I’m betting it will.

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