Ed Markey (D-MA), chair of the influential House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, was swift with his praise of Kellogg Company when it announced its new dietary standards for marketing to preteen children. Now he's calling on five other large corporations to follow suit. Each of them – Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, Kraft Foods, McDonald's and PepsiCo – got a letter. Markey wants each to at a minimum commit to the same standards announced by Kellogg.
Markey said, "While parents and families have an undeniable responsibility to steer their children toward healthy choices, the Institute of Medicine has linked the current unhealthy trend toward poor nutrition and childhood obesity in our country to the prevalence of television advertisements for fast food, junk food, sugared cereals, and other foods wholly lacking in nutritional value. If this trend continues, our children could be the first in generations to enjoy shorter life expectancies than their parents. These companies are some of the world's largest food and beverage marketers, and together they have the power to play a significant role in solving the childhood obesity problem through socially responsible advertising practices. I urge them to follow Kellogg's lead."
Markey will use his subcommittee to look into this and other media matters this Friday, 6/22/07, in a session entitled "Images Kids See on the Screen." He said his intent is to "…explore the link between TV advertising and childhood obesity, and whether regulatory or legislative solutions are needed to restrict food marketing on television to combat the serious public health issue of childhood obesity."
SmartMedia observation: Food companies have been trying to head off legislation. At the same time, effective legislation may be tough to write, even given the second-class citizenship generally conferred on commercial speech by the judiciary. This battle figures to continue for some time. Stay tuned.