In the continuing battle over the federal government’s proposed guidelines on marketing food to children, the Senate Appropriations Committee voted to support the guidelines despite opposition from House lawmakers.
In April the Interagency Working Group – made up of the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Agriculture – released a preliminary report suggesting a set of guidelines on nutrition criteria of foods marketed to children and teenagers.
The voluntary guidelines call 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.
Groups like the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers, as well as manufacturers, joined together to object to the guidelines. In comments submitted in opposition to the guidelines, the ANA argued that while voluntary, the guidelines would amount to de facto regulations and require “massive re-engineering of the entire food industry based on nutrition standards that go far beyond any ever approved by a government agency.”
The groups also said the guidelines would violate their First Amendment rights.
Legislative support for the guidelines appears mixed.
In the House, lawmakers added language to the appropriations bill to cut funding for the program and require further study before implementation of the guidelines.
But in the language approved by the Senate Committee as part of its appropriations bill, the Interagency Working Group will submit its final report by Dec. 15, which would move implementation of the guidelines forward.
Why it matters: Legislators appear divided for now on the guidelines. Supporters of the guidelines have also begun to lobby lawmakers, with a group called the Food Marketing Workgroup sending a letter in support of the guidelines in early September. The letter, from 36 law professors, attempts to rebut the industry’s First Amendment argument, and it was sent to the agencies that make up the Interagency Working Group, as well as the White House and Congress. “We wanted the agencies of the Interagency Working Group to know that it [the food and advertising lobby] is not the only view on the Hill,” Margo Wootan, who heads up the Food Marketing Workgroup and also serves as the Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told AdWeek.