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Industry is ‘doing its part’ to encourage healthy diets, says GMA

By Caroline Scott-Thomas, 30-Aug-2011

Related topics: The obesity problem, Markets

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) has said that industry is doing its part to help consumers build healthy diets, in response to a new research review that criticized trade organizations’ progress on food marketing to children as ‘limited’.

Published in the latest edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the research review of 117 published articles and reports sought to assess how much progress industry has made in changing and reducing marketing of unhealthy foods to children in the five year period to January 2011, since the Institute of Medicine (IOM) first recommended ways in which industry stakeholders could help promote a healthy diet back in 2005.

The review reported that trade organizations, including the GMA, have made only ‘limited’ progress in reducing marketing to children, after weighing its members’ positive actions in the context of spending $1.6m lobbying against soda taxes, and developing a front of pack labeling scheme in conjunction with the Food Marketing Institute, which the study’s authors said “preempted a forthcoming IOM report based on consumers’ understanding of FOP systems.”

Responding to the review, the GMA said in an emailed statement: “The health and wellness of our consumers has always been a top priority, and we have significantly accelerated our effort to help consumers build healthier lifestyles in recent years.”

The organization, which represents the interests of food and beverage manufacturing companies in the United States, said its members have developed and introduced to the marketplace more than 20,000 healthier products between 2002 and 2009 with reduced calories, fat, sodium or sugar; pledged to remove 1.5 trillion calories from the food supply by 2015; and supports Michelle Obama’s campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation.

“When it comes to responsible marketing practices, GMA and its member companies have taken the lead in voluntarily adopting and adhering to strict advertising criteria,” the organization said. “…The industry has extended its nutrition standards for marketing to children to include social media, mobile device advertising and video games.

“Voluntary restrictions on food and beverage advertising are another important example of how our industry is doing its part to help consumers build healthy diets and live active lifestyles.”

Trade organizations were among several industry sub-sectors that the research review found to have made ‘limited’ progress in promoting healthy diets, alongside restaurants and entertainment companies. However, it found that food and beverage companies had done better, judging them to have made ‘moderate’ progress over the past five years.