WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — Mary Waters, president of the North American Millers' Association (NAMA), said at the Forum on Food Marketed to Children on May 24 in Washington, D.C., U.S., that she is concerned enriched grains are not included among the foods that children should be encouraged to eat.

"The case for keeping enriched grain foods on the list of healthy foods is easy to make," Waters said. "Grain-based products are some of the most affordable means for achieving appropriate nutrient intake levels, making them especially critical for disadvantaged populations."

The Interagency Working Group (IWG) hosted the forum to receive public comments on "Proposed Voluntary Principals," a set of guidelines for advertising to children 17 and younger that were released last month. IWG is a four-agency working group (Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and U.S. Department of Agriculture) formed at the direction of the U.S. Congress to develop recommendations for the nutritional quality of food marketed to children and adolescents.

The proposed advertising guidelines list foods that children should be encouraged to select because they "make a meaningful contribution to a healthy diet and contain limited amounts of ingredients that could adversely affect health or weight." In her comments, Waters noted that "this proposal is not in line with dietary guidelines released this year by the federal government that acknowledge the health benefits of both enriched and whole grains, recommending six daily servings with half of them being whole grain.”

Since 1941, grain foods have been enriched with iron and the B vitamins riboflavin, niacin and thiamine. With this enrichment, pellegra and beriberi have been eradicated from the U.S. In 1998, FDA added folic acid to the enrichment formula. Enriched grain foods are now the primary source of folic acid in American’s diets. That's important because folic acid is critical in the prevention of neural tube defects. Since 1998, the incidence of neural tube defects has declined by 34 percent in white, non-Hispanics and by 36% among Hispanic women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. FDA standards of identity allow whole grain cereals to be fortified with folic acid but not whole grain bread.

Enriched grain foods provide children with the nutrients they need in the foods they love. To discourage the consumption of enriched grains through advertising restrictions would reduce access to affordable and convenient sources of key nutrients to children.