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Governments examine food labeling, marketing to kids

By Lorraine Heller , 04-Apr-2008

Government officials, nutritionists and consumer groups will next week examine the state food labeling and marketing as part of efforts to reduce childhood obesity globally.

Speakers at the Generation Excess conference, to be held on April 8 in Washington, DC, include officials from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the UK Food Standards Agency, and the European Commission. Together with nutritionists, researchers and consumer groups, the government officials will examine current nutrition rating systems and labeling, as well as guidelines on marketing practices to children. Marketing to kids Climbing rates of childhood obesity in the US and Europe have placed the food industry in the spotlight in recent years, with the nutritional content of products and companies' marketing practices being increasingly scrutinized. In the US, a number of initiatives have been set up in an effort to ensure responsible advertising to children, such as the Council of Better Business Bureau's (CBBB) Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. This was established in 2006 as a voluntary self-regulation program for industry. Participants include Cadbury Schweppes, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, PepsiCo and Unilever, amongst others. These companies agreed to adopt nutrition standards for all marketing aimed at children, and also committed to devote at least half of their kids' advertising to promote healthier products, good nutrition and healthy lifestyles. However, despite commitments such as these, industry continues to be accused on not doing enough to help curb the obesity epidemic. According to a public opinion survey commissioned by the Transatlantic Consumer Dialogue (TACD), 82 percent of Americans think food companies should be making a greater effort to reformulate for more better-for-you products. This compares with 90 percent in Britain, 89 percent in Spain and 87 percent in Hungary. Conference Next week's Generation Excess conference is set up by TACD. Sessions will include:

  • Changing the Food Environment
  • Providing Consumers with Useful Nutrition Information
  • Food Marketing: Regulation, Co-regulation, Self-Regulation
  • Improving Product Composition - What's the Right Recipe for Good Health?

Speakers include:

  • Camile Brewer, deputy director, Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements at the US FDA, who will provide an update on nutrition labeling in the US
  • Helen Lee, from the European Commission's Health and Consumer Protection Directorate General, who will provide an update on the EC's new proposal for mandatory nutrition labeling
  • Rosemary Hignett, head of nutrition division, UK Food Standards Agency whose presentation is entitled Traffic Light Signals v. GDAs; What Does the Research Show?
  • Dr Will Cavendish, director of health and well-being, at the UK Department of Health will talk about the impact of UK law restricting food marketing to children

For more information and a full agenda, click here .

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