Obesity Task Force Pushes Report To September


The government-industry obesity task force has delayed its report to Congress until September, according to Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), who spearheaded the task force's creation.

Powerful Democrat Ed Markey wasn't happy, saying it's time for the FCC to step in.

Brownback said Thursday that Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)-- along with members FCC Chairman Kevin Martin and commissioners Deborah Taylor Tate and Michael Copps-- had agreed to extend the task force's work.

They had been working toward having a report ready for Congress by mid-July on steps to rein in marketing of snack foods to kids and promoting healthier diets and exercise. As late as last week, one member of the task force had said mid-July remained a target date.

"The additional time is a worthwhile investment if it produces a great result," said FCC Commissioner Michael Copps.  "I hope and expect that the participants intend to do just that."

Brownback's office had not returned calls for comment at press time on why the date was pushed back, but at a hearing on the media's influence on children that dealt heavily with food marketing, the committee was told to expect some self-regulatory announcements soon from major brands.involved in an ongoing effort to modify their marketing.

The task force was formed last fall by Brownback, the FCC commissioners, activist groups and marketers to join hands rather than point fingers in the battle against childhood obesity.

While marketers have taken steps to self-regulate, House Telecommunications & Internet Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.) has advised the FCC it may have to weigh in and Martin has said the FCC will likely step in if the recommendations of the task force, of which he is a member, aren't strong enough.

"Chairman Markey is disappointed that the task force did not reach a set of meaningful, concrete commitments from the food and media industries, " said Markey's office in an e-mail to B&C. "The Institute of Medicine asked industry to take such steps more than two years ago, and we’re all still waiting for those commitments to materialize.

"Further, this demonstrates that the FCC needs to initiate a rulemaking into food marketing in children’s television now, as the task force is unlikely to result in anything in the near future."