NAMA ‘very concerned’ about proposed ad rules

by Eric Schroeder
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WASHINGTON — Mary Waters, president of the North American Millers’ Association, said NAMA is “very concerned” that enriched grains are not included among the foods that children should be encouraged to consume through proposed advertising guidelines. Ms. Waters’ spoke May 24 as part of a presentation at the Interagency Working Group’s “Food Marketed to Children” public forum in Washington.

“The case for keeping enriched grain foods on the list of healthy foods is easy to make,” Ms. Waters said. “Grain-based products are some of the most affordable means for achieving appropriate nutrient intake levels, making them especially critical for disadvantage populations.”

The I.W.G. in late April released a list of foods that children should be encouraged to eat because they “make a meaningful contribution to a healthy diet and contain limited amounts of ingredients that could adversely affect health or weight.” While whole grains were included on the list, enriched grains were not — a serious misstep, according to NAMA.

In making the case for enriched grains inclusion on the list, Ms. Waters pointed to the recommendations set forth in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans released earlier this year. The guidelines recommend six daily servings of grains, with half being whole grain.

“Products made with enriched flour provide important vitamins and minerals not found in whole grain products,” Ms. Waters said. “Since 1941, white flour has been fortified with key nutrients. Specifically, thiamin, niacin and iron were mandated by the U.S. government in response to the vast nutrient deficiencies seen in the U.S. population. The fortification led to nearly universal eradication of crippling diseases in the U.S., such as pellagra and beriberi.”

More recently, enriched grains have become the primary source of folic acid in Americans’ diets and have helped prevent neural tube defects, she said.

“Fortified grain-based foods (like cereals and bread) are vital to public health because they deliver a density and variety of key nutrients that few children would be able to receive otherwise,” Ms. Waters said. “Grain-based products are some of the most affordable means for achieving appropriate nutrient intake levels, making them especially critical for disadvantaged populations. Other foods that may meet the proposed advertising ban’s dietary standards are not nearly as affordable or convenient. They also are harder to transport and store and are more frequently wasted.

“The grain industry would be hit particularly hard by the I.W.G.’s proposed nutrition principles. Grain-based products — such as ready-to-eat cereals, snack bars, bread, and pasta products — constitute the majority of individual food items advertised to children and adolescents. Ready-to-eat cereal alone accounts for 49% of such advertisements. Under the advertising ban, almost no grain-based products — including unsweetened cereals — could be marketed to children and adolescents.”

Ms. Waters concluded her testimony by saying that putting enriched grain foods on a list of foods companies are asked to voluntarily not advertise to children “would reduce available avenues to provide children with affordable and convenient sources of key nutrients.”

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