GMA/FPA Weighs in on Childhood Obesity; Holds IS/LD Conference

WASHINGTON -- The Grocery Manufacturers/Food Products Association (GMA/FPA) took part yesterday in the inaugural meeting of "Media and Childhood Obesity: Today and Tomorrow," a joint task force on media and childhood obesity, of which the organization is a member.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Sen. Tom Harkin, FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin, and Commissioners Deborah Taylor Tate and Michael Copps are leading the effort.

The task force provides a forum for the public and private sectors to discuss voluntary efforts and initiatives to address the precipitous rise in childhood obesity rates.

"The food and beverage industry recognizes that it can help combat childhood obesity by providing a wider range of nutritious product choices and marketing these choices in ways that promote healthy lifestyles," said GMA/FPA s.v.p. and chief government affairs officer Mary Sophos in a statement.

"For more than three decades, the self-regulatory guidelines of the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU) have helped to ensure that advertising to children by food companies is age and nutritionally appropriate, and reflects a balanced approach to health and nutrition," added Sophos. "Thanks in part to great work by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), CARU guidelines were recently modernized, broadening their jurisdiction and strengthening CARU's guidance to all children's advertisers, including food and beverage companies. Moreover, in an effort spearheaded by the CBBB, food and beverage advertisers accounting for over two-thirds of all TV advertising to children under 12 have created a new Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative under which they have committed to devote the majority of their messages to healthy choices and lifestyles. In addition, GMA/FPA is working with the Ad Council on its new campaign with the Department of Health and Human Resources and media groups to bring important messages to parents and kids about health, nutrition, and physical activity."

Over the past five years, food companies have rolled out about 10,000 new and reformulated products and sizes with more whole grains and reduced calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and sugar, and are investing in initiatives to educate consumers on the importance of a healthy diet and increased physical activity.

In the last three years alone, GMA/FPA members have contributed over $100 million toward nutrition and health-related activities and grants to communities. Some examples of industry service in this arena are sponsoring the Ad Council's Coalition for Healthy Children, and forming healthy-lifestyles and physical fitness program partnerships with the Boys' and Girls' Clubs of America, the National Latino Children's Institute, the YMCA of the USA, the National Recreation and Park Association, the National Association for Sport and Physical Education, and the American Heart Association, to name just a few.

Among those participating in the task force with GMA/FPA are American Diabetes Association, American Society for Nutrition, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, Kraft Foods, Coca-Cola Co., General Mills, Kellogg Co., McDonald's, PepsiCo, Ion Media Networks, Viacom, Discovery Channel, Walt Disney Co., Sesame Workshop, Black Family Channel, Telemundo, The Beverly LaHaye Institute, the Benton Foundation, Children Now, Common Sense Media, the Center for Screen Time Awareness, PTA, Parents Television Council, the Ad Council, Association of National Advertisers, and the American Association of Advertising Agencies.

In other GMA/FPA news, the association spotlighted collaborative partnerships between CPG companies and retailers this week at its annual Information Systems & Logistics/Distribution (IS/LD) Conference in Orlando, Fla.

At the conference Danny Wegman, president and c.e.o. of Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., and Sandy Douglas, president of Coca-Cola North America, spoke about imperative business issues at their respective companies, including data synchronization, information sharing, supply chain, merchandising, and score-carding.

"As our mission statement clearly defines, one of the most productive steps we can take in improving supply chain efficiencies is sharing successful practices and collaborating with our peers and trading partners," noted GMA/FPA president and c.e.o. Cal Dooley. "In that spirit, IS/LD has long served as a laboratory for new ideas, and for sharing best practices, and this week's conference is no exception as we discuss new technologies, as well as successful strategies for improving customer service and sales and sales promotion activities."

The GMA/FPA board of directors consists of 52 c.e.o.'s from the association's member companies.
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