FDA Launches New Anti-Obesity Campaign
FDA on Friday released a report outlining the agency's anti-obesity campaign, the Washington Post reports (Stein, Washington Post, 3/13). The report, called "Calories Count," was created by FDA's Obesity Working Group (FDA release, 3/12). The report recommended:
- Revising food nutrition labels by requiring larger type size for total calories and including what percentage the calories represent of the daily recommended caloric intake;
- Requiring foods that most people eat all at once -- even though they contain two or more serving sizes -- to include on the labels the total calorie count for the entire package of food (Neergaard, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 3/13);
- Encouraging the development of a new generation of weight-loss drugs;
- Defining what foods can be labeled "low," "reduced" or "free" of carbohydrates;
- Examining if food companies could be allowed to make health claims -- such as "Diets low in calories may reduce the risk of obesity, which is associated with type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancers" -- on food labels that meet FDA's definition of "reduced" or "low" in calories;
- Convening an advisory board to review and update the guidelines for diet drugs;
- Encouraging restaurants to provide more nutrition information on their menus (Washington Post, 3/13);
- Encouraging food manufacturers to use dietary guidance statements, such as, "To manage your weight, balance the calories you eat with your physical activity; have a carrot, not the carrot cake; or have cherry yogurt, not cherry pie";
- Strengthening the coordination of obesity research and the development of healthier foods with other HHS agencies, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other public and private sector groups; and
- Focusing FDA's consumer education on influencing behavior, promoting healthy eating choices and working with private and public sector partners to give consumers a better understanding of food nutrition labels (FDA release, 3/12).
Food manufacturers and restaurants "generally praised" the FDA moves and pledged to work with the government on countering obesity, the Post reports. However, Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said, "Overall, the administration is ... rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic," adding, "Relying on junk-food marketers' self-policing is naive and one of the things that helped Americans waddle into the obesity epidemic in the first place." Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said, "We must move beyond recommendations to immediate action. More aggressive steps to curb obesity and give consumers the tools to make healthy decisions are necessary to address this growing crisis." But Thompson said, "I believe voluntary compliance in this case is much better," adding, "If this doesn't work, then we're going to have to come back and take a harder look at it and find more kinds of actions that are going to be more oppressive" (Washington Post, 3/13). The FDA report is available online. ABCNews' "World News Tonight" Friday reported on the FDA anti-obesity campaign. The segment includes comments from Crawford and Dr. David Katz of the Yale University School of Medicine (McKenzie, "World News Tonight," ABCNews, 3/12).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.