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NORTHFIELD, Ill. -- In response to rising obesity rates around the world, Kraft Foods Inc. said today it would initiate a new series of steps to further strengthen the alignment of its products and marketing practices with societal needs. The forthcoming changes, which includes capping portion sizes and providing more nutrition information, comes as Kraft, and other companies, faces growing concern and even lawsuits due to rising obesity rates.
"The rise in obesity is a complex public health challenge of global proportions," said Betsy Holden, co-CEO of Kraft Foods. "Just as obesity has many causes, it can be solved only if all sectors of society do their part to help. Kraft is committed to product choices and marketing practices that will help encourage healthy lifestyles and make it easier to eat and live better."
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 labeling in all markets worldwide, including markets where it is not required. The commitment will focus in four key areas: product nutrition, marketing practices, consumer information and public advocacy and dialogue. Some are fully developed and nearing implementation, while other steps will require further development, including continued input from experts and interest groups outside the company.
To aid in this process, Kraft is forming a global council of advisors to help it structure its ongoing response to obesity and develop policies, standards, measures and timetables for
implementation. Among the steps Kraft is taking in the four areas are:
* A cap on the portion size of single-serve packages.
* Guidelines for the nutritional characteristics of all products.
* A planned effort to improve existing products and provide alternative choices, where appropriate.
* The elimination of all in-school marketing.
* Guidelines for all advertising and marketing practices, including advertising and marketing to children, to encourage appropriate eating behaviors and active lifestyles.
* Nutrition labeling in all markets worldwide, including markets where labeling is not required.
* Added nutrition and/or activity-related information on product labels and company Web sites to assist consumer choices.
* Guidelines for the use of health-related claims in all markets worldwide, including markets where no restrictions exist.
Advocacy and Dialogue
* Advocacy for appropriate public policies to engage schools and communities in helping to improve fitness and nutrition.
* Increased dialogue with key stakeholders to help guide the company's continuing response to the obesity issue.
"What people eat is ultimately a matter of personal choice, but we can help make it an educated choice," said Roger Deromedi, co-CEO of Kraft Foods. "And helping them get more active is every bit as important as helping them eat better. By providing people with products and information they can use to improve their eating and activity behaviors, we can do our part to help arrest the rise in obesity."
Kraft is currently in the process of forming its expert advisory council, which will bring together leading voices from key disciplines important to the company's response to changing patterns in diet, activity and weight. These will include experts in obesity, nutrition, physical activity, public health, human behavior, nutrient fortification and lifestyle education and intervention programs. The council will:
* Determine the levels at which the portion size of its single-serve packages will be capped.
* Develop measures to guide the nutrient characteristics of all products and to help improve existing products and provide alternative choices, where appropriate.
* Create a standardized approach for nutrition labeling and the use of health-related claims in countries where such regulations do not exist.
The company is targeting the end of 2003 to complete the development of these standards and measures. Implementation will begin in 2004 and will likely require two to three years to complete.