in this area since 2006 and that updating this literature is warranted if not already under way.
In its 2008 report, the FTC also committed to conducting a follow-up study a few years later. That follow-up study has now begun. On August 23, 2010, the FTC sent a second round of compulsory process orders to 48 companies, including most of the original 44 companies. These orders sought similar but expanded information about marketing activities and expenditures for calendar year 2009, as well as nutritional information on the foods marketed to children.
The timing of this follow-up study is propitious, said Vladeck. In 2006, efforts by the industry to self-regulate its activities in this area were in their formative stages. By the close of 2009, the industry had 3 years of experience with self-regulation. In its forthcoming report, the FTC will be able to document not only the dollars spent on marketing but also the nutritional properties of the advertised products. In this way, it will be able to measure the extent to which self-regulation has achieved its stated goal of changing the nutritional landscape of food marketing to children.
The second initiative Vladeck described is a joint undertaking of the FTC, the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Congress has charged an interagency working group with recommending nutritional standards for foods to be marketed to children and adolescents. The group has been preparing a notice proposing a set of nutritional standards—a large and complex task, according to Vladeck. When the proposal is published, the group will seek public comment, “and the more comment the better,” he said, since “we have struggled with some of these issues.”
The proposed standards will not be regulations, Vladeck emphasized. Rather, the voluntary cooperation of the food industry will be sought in using the standards to raise the nutritional bar for foods marketed to children and bring greater uniformity to the standards companies follow. Regulators and Congress “have made the decision to give self-regulation a chance,” said Vladeck.
As the agency responsible for regulating the labeling of most food products on the market, the FDA is involved in many activities with a connection to childhood obesity. Barbara Schneeman, director, Office of Nutrition, Labeling, and Dietary Supplements, Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, FDA, described four specific initiatives: implementing the federal menu labeling law, updating the Nutrition Facts label, defining dietary guidance statements, and considering a front-of-package labeling system or systems.