2013 Watershed for Childhood Nutrition?

A number of developments in the works suggest that 2013 could be a pivotal year for childhood nutrition policy, with measures such as advertising curbs, taxes, or even bans in the spotlight. The Food Marketing Workgroup, a collection of advocacy organizations, started a chain of events in 2007 that are coming together now. Forbesrecently published a perspective on the way these trends are unfolding.

The Food Marketing Workgroup and other health and nutrition activists created intense pressure that led Congress to authorize the Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children (IAWG) in 2009. Comprised of experts from FTC, CDC, FDA, and USDA, the IAWG was charged with evaluating food marketing to children and suggest possible strategies to protect children 2 to 17.

As the U.S. struggles with the obesity epidemic and the rise in childhood obesity, more attention is coming to bear the large and powerful food industry. Due to the influence Big Food has on U.S. nutrition and trends, the debate over what children eat and drink and what can be done about it has escalated into a political battle over the best way to move forward to battle obesity.

Obesity raises legitimate public policy and health issues. What is the best course to take as a nation to address these critical issues? Can self-regulation work?

Political battles appear likely in 2013 on regulating the health effects of what children are persuaded to eat and drink. One example is deliberations by the IAWG, which is currently reviewing public comments after its release of recommendations in April 2011. The panel’s final recommendations are required by legislation to be reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs to make sure that any restrictions on commercial free speech would advance the public interest.

Also in the mix is the Healthy, Hunger Free-Kids Act of 2010, a federal statute signed into law on December 13, 2010. Part of this Act, which largely is about funding child nutrition programs and free lunch programs in schools, is preparation by the Department of Agriculture of updated nutritional standards for foods and drinks that can be sold at schools. The food industry is concerned about these new standards. Others are examining taxes on so-called fatty foods. Over the past two years more than two dozen states and seven cities that have considered “soda taxes” to discourage drinking sugary beverages. These and other signs point to renewed activism in 2013.

Click here to read the Forbes article and click here to read the April 2011 recommendations for the IAWG.