In a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the Interagency Working Group said it “anticipates making significant changes to both the marketing and nutrition principles” found in the preliminary guidelines regarding marketing food to children.
The preliminary guidelines, issued in April, drew criticism from the food industry. As drafted, they called for food and beverage companies to modify the content of their products to meet nutrition standards or eliminate the marketing of such products to children under age 18.
Industry groups argued that the guidelines, albeit voluntary, would violate their First Amendment rights and would amount to de facto regulations.
In a letter authored by the heads of three of the agencies making up the IWG – Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture; Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services; and Jon Leibowitz, Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission – the IWG appeared to back off its preliminary report. Noting that it received more than 29,000 comments, the agencies said they planned to make “significant changes” to the principles in the report while developing final recommendations to Congress. The letter also noted that the IWG is considering the industry’s own self-regulatory plan.
“This industry-led voluntary effort complements the goals of the IWG, and we intend to take this significant development into account, as well as other stakeholder comments, when developing our final recommendations,” the agencies wrote.
To read the IWG’s letter, click here.
Why it matters: While the language in the letter indicated a positive turn of events for the food industry, commenters were cautious in their optimism. “This may end up being a positive development, but before anybody starts popping champagne corks, we need to see what is actually being proposed,” Dan Jaffe, the executive vice president of the ANA told AdWeek. “There have to be very significant changes to the proposal to make them acceptable.”