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More Big Food News: Tacos and Kiddie Ads

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Last week brought more announcements of healthy steps the food industry has promised to take to improve the health of our children (and us, the big kids too).

1. Taco Bell is the latest to jump on the trans fat free band wagon. By April all of the Mexican style eateries in the U.S. will switch from a partially hydrogenated soybean oil to a trans fat free canola oil. The switch will mean that 15 of their deep fried foods, like chalupas and tacos, will be trans fat free. For some reason not all products will be using this oil. The grilled stuft burrito will still contain those nasty trans. Nevertheless, a step in the right direction. They won't be fat free and no word if there will be a change in the amount of saturated fat these products will still contain. So keep that in mind before you take this news as a license to overindulge in 5 crunchy beef tacos every week. Calories and fat will still be there.

2. Next on the horizon, 10 of the largest food and beverage companies have pledged to promote healthy eating and lifestyles in at least half of their ads directed at children. The Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, Inc., The Hershey Company, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods Inc., McDonald's, PepsiCo, Inc., Schweppes USA, Campbell Soup Company and Unilever (Knorr, Wishbone etc) partnered with the Council of Better Business Bureaus to establish the self-regulating Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. In addition to promoting healthy eating and lifestyles the initiative outlines industry promises to:

--Limit products shown in interactive games to healthier dietary choices, or incorporate healthy lifestyle messages into the games.
--Not advertise food or beverage products in elementary schools.
--Not engage in food and beverage product placement in editorial and entertainment content.
--Reduce the use of third-party licensed characters in advertising that does not meet the Initiative's product or messaging criteria

Sounds great but take note of key words like "limit", "reduce" and "half of advertising". Not all of their advertising will necessarily promote healthy diets and lifestyles. Kid friendly characters will still peddle their foods. Middle schools and high schools will still be subject to product promotions and advertising. And their products will still be sold in schools, elementary and otherwise.

This does seem to be a positive step as it raises more awareness about the effect of advertising on our kids. But we still need to carefully monitor what our kids see and hear on TV, radio, the Internet and so on. Our kids are easy targets and we must never let our guard down. While I embrace these changes if they indeed make a difference, I say exercise caution because none of these companies are in the business of not making money.
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About the Author

Registered dietitian Andrea N. Giancoli is a nutrition advocate, consultant and educator.

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