Kraft Foods Inc., the largest U.S. food company, said this week it would take steps like capping portion sizes and providing more nutrition information as it, like other companies, faces growing concern and even lawsuits due to rising obesity rates.
The maker of Oreo cookies, Velveeta cheese spread and a host of other foods said it will limit portion sizes in single-serve packages, eliminate all in-school marketing and provide nutrition labelling in all markets worldwide, including markets where it is not required.
Food companies and fast food chains have faced increased criticism for producing unhealthy, fatty foods. Obesity among adults in the North American has doubled since 1980, and tripled among adolescents.
Earlier this year, a lawsuit was filed in California seeking to ban Oreos. The suit, which drew criticism in legal circles for potentially abusing the U.S. court system, was withdrawn less than two weeks later, with the attorney saying news coverage of the lawsuit made people aware of the alleged health risks from eating one of America's favourite snacks.
Northfield, Illinois-based Kraft said its efforts would be global, focusing on product nutrition, marketing practices, information for consumers and public advocacy. Marketing fatty and sugar-laden foods to children has been a hot-button issue as obesity concerns have come to the forefront.
Last week, New York City's school system decided to remove candy, soda and sweet snacks from school vending machines. Kraft said the changes it will make will include advertising and marketing to children to encourage appropriate eating behaviours and active lifestyles.
Last month, the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that agency plans to push for expanded nutritional labelling on food products.
Kraft also said it will form an advisory council that will include experts on obesity, nutrition, physical activity, public health, human behaviour, nutrient fortification and lifestyle education and intervention programs.
The company said it is targeting the end of 2003 to complete the development of standards and measures for portion size and other items. Implementation will begin in 2004 and will likely require two to three years to complete.
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