The US federal government has made a series of "tentative" proposals to regulate the nutritional standards of foods advertised to children under the age of 17.

An Interagency Working Group on Foods Marketed to Children (IWG), which is made up of the  Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Department of Agriculture's Centre for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration, has been charged with developing guidelines to restrict the marketing of unhealthy foods to children by July.

In a document prepared following a public hearing organised by the FTC, the IWG presented their "tentative, proposed" nutrition standards for food marketed to children.

Under the proposal foods marketed to kids would be grouped into three categories: "standard I foods" containing 100% fruit and vegetables; "standard II foods" that provide a "meaningful contribution to a healthful diet"; and "standard III foods" where saturated and trans fats, salt and sugar are restricted to minimum amounts.

The IWC is now seeking input from interested parties on a number of issues, including whether standards should differ for various age groups and the precise definition of the food categories.

While it is still in its early stages, the report was welcomed by consumer advocates Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

"The federal government is headed in exactly the right direction with the draft nutrition standards proposed for foods that are marketed to children," CSPI nutrition policy director Margo Wootan said.

According to Wootan, if the standards are adopted they would shift the landscape of food marketing to children "dramatically" in favour of healthy foods

Wootan called on food marketers and their self-regulatory body, the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, to adopt the proposed standards on a voluntary basis.

"Rather than trying to weaken these standards, I hope that the industry sees the Interagency Working Group's recommendations  as a wake-up call, and soon phases out the discredited practice of marketing junk food to kids altogether," she said.