ARLINGTON, Va April 29, 2011 – Parents who try to feed their children healthy food may have cause for relief when toting their tots to the grocery store: less junk food marketed directly to children.
If the food industry decides to follow new governmental recommendations, any food marketed to children under the age of 17 will have to meet at least a few criteria of healthfulness.
A working group with representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture received direction from Congress to come up with recommendations, which they released yesterday.
Among the “proposed voluntary” recommendations are two principles for foods marketed directly to children aged 2-17.
Principle A indicates that food must contain at one ingredient that makes a “meaningful contribution to a healthy diet.” The list of “thumbs-up” options includes: fruit, vegetable, whole grain, low-fat or fat-free milk product, extra lean meat or poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, or beans.
Clearly the word hasn’t gotten out to this group that full-fat dairy is a whole food, while reduced fat is not. When we eat full-fat foods, instead of processed foods, we feel more satisfied and eat less.
Principle B targets minimizing “the content of nutrients that could have a negative impact on health or weight.” On this list: saturated fat, trans fat, added sugars, and sodium.
Again, a traditional foods perspective would point out that fats are not all created equal, nor are salts. Naturally-occurring whole-food fats like butter, lard, and coconut oil are beneficial for children’s bodies and brains, and real sea salt contains vital minerals. As the Weston A. Price Foundation has pointed out in its criticism of USDA dietary guidelines, the idea that fat and salt are just simply bad is a myth.
We run into problems when we substitute healthy fats and mineral-rich sea salt for industrialized, factory-made fats like canola oil and refined salts. These substances are not real food once they have been stripped of their nutritional value, or are heated and processed in such a way that they have become unrecognizable to our bodies.
This anti-marketing initiative is, however, at least creating awareness, which is usually a good thing.
When an industry spends over $1.5 million a year trying to get kids to clamor for a certain cereal or snack, it might be hard to believe that it will undertake these “voluntary efforts.” But, with everyone talking about the childhood obesity epidemic, companies may just comply to look like they are doing their part, even if they keep producing food laden with sugar, dyes and chemicals — simply sans the snazzy characters to shill them.
FTC Guidance Documents with research and background
Jessica Claire Haney is a freelance writer, editor and tutor. Her writing has appeared in parenting publications and poetry journals. A former high school English teacher, Jessica is mother to a five-year-old son and a baby girl. She is passionate about holistic health and well-being and is a leader of a chapter of Holistic Moms Network.
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