WASHINGTON DC: A taskforce set-up by the US Senate and the Federal Communications Commission to examine links between food advertising and child obesity will meet for the first time next month.

The forum, led by FCC chairman Kevin Martin and Republican senator Sam Brownback will consider voluntary initiatives to ease any negative effects of commercials.

Among the food companies represented at the meeting on February 14 will be McDonald's, PepsiCo and Kraft Foods. Media firms such as Walt Disney and Viacom are also involved, as are health lobby groups and advertising organizations

The event is billed as "a bipartisan effort to provide a forum for public and private sectors to jointly examine the impact of media on childhood obesity and to explore voluntary recommendations".

The task force was established last year [WARC News: 03-Oct-06] in response to increasingly vociferous demands from advocacy groups that food advertising to children should be subject to legislation, rather than self-regulation.

With control of Congress now in the hands of the Democrats such legislation looms increasingly likely - an outcome food manufacturers are keen to avoid.

Brownback, however, is firmly against such intervention, saying: "I am concerned about links between media, advertising and children's health, but I do not necessarily think more government regulation is the answer."

And the American Association of Advertising Agencies also favors a voluntary approach.

Comments the AAAA's svp and counsel Adonis Hoffman: "It's noteworthy that Congress and the FCC chose to confer with many of the key stakeholders on the issue before they chose to act. I'm sure they will find industry to be a guiding light on strategies and solutions to a difficult social problem."

Data sourced from AdAge.com; additional content by WARC staff