FDA Wants Restaurants to Focus on Healthier Meals

Suggests Changes to Marketing and Menu Plans to Combat Obesity

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Calling obesity a "public health crisis of epidemic proportions," a report to be unveiled today by the Food and Drug Administration calls on restaurant and food-service providers to make a major shift in their menus and advertising and focus on healthier meal choices.
The FDA report characterizes the obesity problem as a 'public health crisis of epidemic proportions.'
The FDA report characterizes the obesity problem as a 'public health crisis of epidemic proportions.'

More daily calories
"On average Americans are consuming more calories today than they were three decades ago [and] are eating away-from-home foods more frequently and consuming more calories [that way] than ever before," according to the report, which was prepared for the FDA by the Keystone Center.

"A wider range of less-calorie-dense, more nutrient-dense food and beverage choices, coupled with consumer education, can help Americans manage their weight most effectively."

The report summarizes months of meeting with health groups and consumer groups on what steps can be taken about Americans' growing waistlines.

Among its recommendations were a mix of marketing and consumer-education programs, and the study also urges companies to research ways to make smarter food choices with smaller portions a clearer price "value proposition."

Marketing to children
Other suggestions include:

  • Having the Children's Advertising Review Unit of the Council of Better Business Bureaus conduct a review to update marketing standards for children's foods.
  • Promoting low-calorie-dense diet patterns by strengthening education and promotion programs for fruits, vegetables and low-fat and no-fat milk.
  • Improving and bolstering "lifestyle education" and "consumer education" programs, including posting standardized information on nutrition and calories at restaurants.
Despite the request for changes, the report said that there is no conclusive evidence that there is a causal link between obesity and takeout food.

Focus placed on restaurants
While food industry groups participated in the process that led to the recommendations, not all were entirely happy with the final report. Sheila Cohn, director of nutrition policy for the National Restaurant Association, said the report failed to take sufficient note of the changes that have already taken place at restaurants. She said both small and large restaurants and chains have already made lower-calorie and healthier food choices available and easier to get.

"Many of the recommendations are already taking place," she said. She also questioned why school lunches weren't a focus and why the priority of the FDA was on restaurants, when 76% of meals are eaten at home.
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