Ads aimed at kids headed in the right direction      

A working group of four federal agencies – FTC, USDA, CDC and FDA – issued a set of guidelines for food industry marketing and advertising products intended for children. Congress directed the working group to develop recommendations for the nutritional quality of food marketed to children and adolescents, ages 2 to 17. The group is now seeking public comment on the proposed guidelines.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) says the industry is already headed in the direction suggested by the guidelines. The group pointed to research conducted by Georgetown Economic Services that shows the average number of food and beverage advertisements that children 2 to 11 viewed on children’s programming fell by 50 percent between 2004 and 2010.

“In recent years, food and beverage companies have adopted strict nutrition standards that have fundamentally changed the advertising landscape,” says Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of GMA. “Since 2005, there has been a significant decrease in overall food and beverage advertising on children’s programs, coupled with a dramatic increase in ads featuring healthier product choices and healthy lifestyle messages. These changes would not have taken place without the leadership and commitment demonstrated by America’s food and beverage companies.”

FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz acknowledged the progress leading food companies had made in promoting healthier foods to kids, but said more needs to be done.

“We all have more work to do before we can tip the scales to a healthier generation of children,” Leibowitz states. “This proposal encourages all food marketers to expand voluntary efforts to reduce kids’ waistlines.”

GMA says that, in recent years, food and beverage manufacturers have changed the recipes of more than 20,000 products to reduce calories, sodium, sugar and fat.

Dairy industry aims to fulfill NAFTA       

The long-running dispute between the US and Mexico over the use of Mexican delivery trucks on US highways could be near an end. At least, the dairy industry hopes it is. A Department of Transportation proposal is aimed at addressing safety concerns and US compliance with trade obligations to Mexico that will allow the two countries to fulfill their respective obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) welcomed the proposal, saying the dispute has cut into US cheese exports to Mexico.

“This is an important step toward a solution that will put an end to the retaliation against our industry’s products,” says Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president and general counsel. “Not only will this resolve a long-standing dispute, but the agreement will send a clear signal to trading partners that the United States is serious about the reciprocal fulfillment of trade obligations.”

Mexico is the biggest importer of US Dairy products, but IDFA says exports of cheese have fallen sharply after Mexico targeted the product with retaliatory tariffs. The current dispute began in 2009 when Congress passed an appropriations bill that eliminated the funding for the previous cross-border trucking pilot program with Mexico.

“We urge Congress to support a permanent resolution of this issue, which is important to maintain a critical market for US dairy exports,” says Hough.

Locally grown foods for school lunches      

USDA announced that its child nutrition programs are implementing new rules designed to encourage use of local farm products in school meals. The final rule, published in the Federal Register, will let schools and other providers give preference to unprocessed locally grown and locally raised agricultural products as they purchase food for the National School Lunch, School Breakfast, Special Milk, Child and Adult Care, Fresh Fruit and Vegetable, and Summer Food Service programs.

The rule is part of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 signed into law by President Obama and one of the key provisions to bolster farm-to-school programs across the country.

“This rule is an important milestone that will help ensure that our children have access to fresh produce and other agricultural products,” says Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin Concannon. “It will also give a much-needed boost to local farmers and agricultural producers.”