Food, Beverage Cos. Laud Obesity Efforts

Industry report: Companies should be commended for self-regulation in advance of FTC report.

Looking to get out in front of a Federal Trade Commission report on food and beverage marketing to kids, being released Tuesday morning, the food and beverage industry put out its own progress report even earlier Tuesday morning on its self-regulatory Food & Beverage Advertising Initiative, saying that the participating companies should be lauded for their progress.

Under pressure from the FTC, the Federal Communications Commission and Capitol Hill, the industry launched the initiative in 2006 to modify its marketing of snack foods to kids given the rise in childhood obesity and decline in exercise programs in the nation's schools.

In a release accompanying the progress report, the Better Business Bureau, which oversees the initiative, said companies like Campbell Soup, Coca-Cola, Hershey, Kraft Foods, Mars, and Unilever, among others, are to be commended, and that "the companies’ advertising to the nation’s children has already undergone a substantial shift toward the promotion of better-for-you foods.”

Those are the six companies that implemented their pledges to cut back between July and December 2007, which included cutting back or out snack ads in shows targeted to kids 12 and under, promoting healthier foods in their ads and modifying their products.

The bureau also gave Campbell and Unilever props for pulling product plugs off their Web sites after discovering for themselves or being enlightened by others that they did not meet the nutrition guidelines for child-directed Web sites.

The report also said six other participants have made progress.

In other initiative news, Nestlé became the 14th company to take the pledge to modify food marketing to kids.

Meanwhile, the government-industry task force on food marketing to kids, launched to great fanfare in fall 2006 has yet to release its report on ways that the government and industry can better work together to combat childhood obesity.