A new childhood obesity task force was yesterday launched in the US, with the aim of promoting responsible marketing to help curb the rising epidemic.
Media and Childhood Obesity: Today and Tomorrow is designed to promote voluntary efforts throughout all segments that will address the rise in childhood obesity rates.
The task force includes groups from the government, industry and media, as well as consumer advocacy groups, advertisers and health experts.
Some of the nation's major food firms will be taking part in the initiative, including Kraft, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kellogg's and PepsiCo.
Health groups involved include the American Diabetes Association, the American Society for Nutrition and the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Media or communications networks joining the initiative include Ion Media Networks, Viacom, Discovery Channel, Walt Disney Company and Sesame Workshop. Amongst other participants are also the Ad Council, Association of National Advertisers, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
"The food and beverage industry recognizes that it can help combat childhood obesity by providing a wider range of nutritious product choices and marketing these choices in ways that promote healthy lifestyles," said food industry body GMA/FPA, another member of the new task force.
Currently, the nation's Children's Advertising Unit (CARU) lays out self-regulatory guidelines for all children's advertisers, including food and beverage companies. These guidelines were recently updated, broadening their jurisdiction and strengthening CARU's guidance to food advertisers in a number of areas. These include clarifying that children's food advertising should not depict over-consumption or discourage healthy lifestyle or healthy dietary choices.
And last year, ten of the nation's leading food and beverage manufacturers launched the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. This voluntary self-regulation program was designed to impose new requirements on product advertising to kids under 12, while increasing messages that promote good nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
GMA/FPA is also working with the Ad Council on its new campaign with the Department of Health and Human Resources and media groups to communicate messages about health, nutrition and physical activity to parents and kids.
According to information provided by GMA/FPA, over the last five years, food companies have introduced about 10,000 new or reformulated products in order to tap into the growing market for 'healthier' goods. These have included products with more whole grains, reduced calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar.
Current estimates suggest that estimates that children are exposed to over 20,000 adverts per year for foods, especially sugared cereals and high-calorie snacks, which has resulted in a mounting clamor of claims that such exposure is contributing to the childhood obesity epidemic.