Want Better Promotion of Existing Self-Regulation Programs

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WASHINGTON ( -- In the face of growing demands for food advertising curbs in Congress, the Grocery Manufacturers of America yesterday asked the Council
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of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) to step up its monitoring and publicity efforts.

In a speech to the CBBB's board of directors, C. Manly Molpus, president-CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers of America, praised the efforts of the National Advertising Review Council's National Advertising Division (NAD) and the Children's Advertising Review Unit (CARU), but bemoaned their lack of visibility. NAD reviews advertising for adults while Better Business Bureau's CARU created rules on advertising to children and reviews complaints about ads aimed at them.

'Best kept secrets'
"These groups aren't getting the credit they deserve," said Mr. Molpus, who called industry's existing self-regulatory efforts "one of the best kept secrets in the country."

In late February, a report issued by the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington concluded there is a direct link between childhood obesity and the advertising that children are exposed to daily. It added fuel to the fire in a Congress under increasing pressure to take action related to the obesity problem.

On the same day, the American Psychological Association, the nation's largest organization of psychologists, issued a separate report calling for new curbs on advertising aimed at children.

High-fat cartoons
Other critics, such as Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, have told Congress that marketers are using popular cartoon characters to promote a wide variety of high-fat foods to children.

In response to this assault of bad news earlier this month, a collection of food marketing groups appeared on Capitol Hill to defend their food advertising practices. Mr. Molpus' remarks to the CBBB board yesterday was a continuation of that industry lobbying effort.

He said the food industry believes that many are unaware of the existing industry advertising curbs and the self-review program designed to examine complaints about food advertising.

'Cannot be trusted'
"Despite the unquestionable success of self-regulation, today activists ... argue that the industry cannot be trusted to communicate responsibly. I can only conclude that they need to learn more about the system we have in place," Mr. Molpus said.

"We think NAD and CARU are doing an excellent job. The only problem is that they are not getting nearly as much notice as they deserve," he said. "The most effective way to influence advertising for the benefit of diet, nutrition and health is to advance and promote self-regulatory organizations like NAD and CARU in the U.S. and around the world.

"We think NAD and CARU should synthesize and publish their relevant consultations, decisions, codes and guides dealing with advertising of food and nutrition, especially advertising directed to children," Mr. Molpus said.

A spokesman for the CBBB did not immediately return calls for comment.

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