- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 4, 2003

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Warning: Jelly doughnuts may be hazardous to your child’s health.

That is what Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a Democratic presidential candidate, is telling America’s parents as he seeks a federal investigation into the marketing practices of junk-food companies.

Mr. Lieberman, who led the fight to put parental warnings on movie, video-game and music advertising, wants the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to determine whether junk-food advertising is connected to the rise in child obesity.

“I like doughnuts. I like sweets. I like candy,” Mr. Lieberman said yesterday. “I’m not saying if you eat a jelly doughnut or have a high-sugar bottle of soda, you’re going to get sick, but if you have too many it’s going to affect your health.”

As president, Mr. Lieberman said, he would push for three interim moves while the FTC conducts its study:

• Require that junk-food advertisements include nutritional information that somehow warns parents, much like movie ads are accompanied by parental ratings.

• Ask Congress to require restaurant chains to include nutritional information on menus and boards. A bill already pending in Congress would do this.

• Empower the Agriculture Department to set standards for food sold in schools, primarily vending machines. The department regulates lunch menus but sets no limits on what companies can sell children through vending machines.

Mr. Lieberman’s campaign officials said the senator will not define junk food, leaving that to dietary and health care professionals.

In the 1990s and into the 2000 presidential campaign, Mr. Lieberman spurred an FTC investigation into the marketing practices of the movie, video-game and music industries. Aides say he has found a similar pattern with food advertising: Companies are marketing unhealthy products to children too young to read.

Although parents can refuse to bring junk food into their homes, advertisements prompt demands from the youngest children and make it more likely that they will buy the products — sometimes in schools — as soon as they get enough money of their own, Mr. Lieberman’s aides said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has declared obesity the top health issue in America. It estimates that 15 percent of children are overweight.

The announcement is part of a weeklong project by Mr. Lieberman to push family-friendly initiatives.

On Wednesday in Manchester, N.H., he proposed expanding the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Clinton-era program that allows up to 12 weeks of family leave per year without pay.

Under Mr. Lieberman’s plan, employees would pay about $1 per week into a program that would provide up to four weeks of leave at half-pay.

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