A two-year-old directive to the National Academies to study food marketing to kids will bear low-calorie fruit Tuesday with the release of what the Institute of Medicine is billing as the most comprehensive study of its kind in a quarter century.
The Academies are essentially outside consultants who provide pro-bono advice to the government on various areas of expertise.
The study came at the direction of the House and Senate Commerce Committees, according to National Academies spokeswoman Christine Stencel, with a particular push by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
Harkin also succeeded in amending the Senate's most recent omnibus funding bill, directing the Federal Trade Commission to similarly study food marketing in a report due out July 1, 2006.
With obesity overtaking cancer as the nation's number-one health risk, according to the Surgeon General, snack and fast-food marketers have been under pressure to promote healthier foods and to adjust their marketing strategies for sweets and treats.
The industry has responded with increased oversight of children's TV advertising, proposed self-regulation and review of some practices, and public-service campaigns to encourage exercise and healthier eating.
Characters like Nickelodeon's SpongeBob have even been touting vegetables in the supermarket to try to change the eating habits of little consumers.