Report on childhood obesity delayed

Task force study to be released in September

A national task force studying the influence of media on childhood obesity will release its formal report in September, not in mid-July as originally skedded, task force leaders announced Thursday.

“Based on preliminary reports, it is our understanding that the task force has identified the pivotal issues and is working together to develop a united solution that reduces marketing of unhealthy foods to children,” Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) said in a joint statement along with Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin J. Martin and commissioners Michael Copps and Deborah Taylor Tate — all members of the task force.

“The extension will allow for a more thorough examination of new initiatives that many of the food and beverage companies are coordinating, as well as a more comprehensive look at how all parties, especially media, can work together for the common good,” statement continued.

However, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.), who has closely monitored the issue of media and childhood obesity, raised the possibility that the FCC may take action before the task force delivers its report. Markey released a statement saying he is “disappointed that the task force did not reach a set of meaningful, concrete commitments from the food and media industries, as the Institute of Medicine asked industry to take such steps more than two years ago, and we’re all still waiting for those commitments to materialize. Further, this demonstrates that the FCC needs to initiate a rulemaking into food marketing in children’s television now, as the task force is unlikely to result in anything in the near future.”

Markey is chairman of the House Telecommunications Subcommittee, which has oversight of the FCC.

In addition to Harkin, Brownback, Martin, Tate and Copps, the Joint Task Force on Media and Childhood Obesity includes representatives of consumer advocacy groups, the food and beverage industry, media companies and advertisers as well as health care and academic experts. Its goal is to develop voluntary and collaborative measures to stem dramatic increases in childhood obesity over the last three decades.

The task force held its first formal meeting in March with an original deadline of mid-July. A new, specific date in September will be announced soon, task force leaders said.

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