House Republicans outline food marketing concerns


Numerous Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are looking into the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children, which was tasked by Congress to write a report on the topic due during the summer of 2010. Now a year past that deadline, there is no report, but instead it looks like IWG is set to offer proposed guidelines.

These concerns are what they plan to address in a hearing on Capitol Hill.

News of the guidelines came out previously, and caused a great deal of concern in the food manufacturing community, since it was completely unclear how the recommendations could be carried out, and because foods thought to be a reasonable part of a child’s diet would fail to pass muster.

Here are ten questions members of the Committee have asked in advance of a hearing to be held under the auspices of both the Subcommittee on Health and the Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade on Tuesday 10/12/11.

1. When does the IWG intend to complete the study called for by Congress? How will the IWG take account of the study in formulating its recommendations to Congress?

2. How did the IWG select the precise levels of the nutrients to limit per Principle B? Why did the IWG deviate from existing federal nutrition standards?

3. What evidence exists to show that the proposed Nutrition Principles are achievable for most types of food? What evidence exists to show the proposed phase-in periods are adequate?

4. What evidence exists to show that childhood obesity is related to advertising of food that doesn’t comply with the proposed Nutrition Principles? Are there examples of advertising restrictions elsewhere that have led to reductions in childhood obesity?

5. What costs would be involved in reformulating food on a widespread scale to meet the proposed Nutrition Principles? How would such costs affect the price of food?

6. If manufacturers cannot successfully reformulate foods to comply with the proposed Nutrition Principles and comply instead with the “voluntary” marketing restrictions, how would the economy be affected? Has the IWG determined the likely impact on advertising revenues? What is the likely impact on television programming, particularly programming intended for children and families? What impact on employment do you expect the proposed Nutrition Principles to have?

7. What alternatives to the current proposal has the IWG considered? In particular, what does the IWG expect would happen if the industry is allowed to continue its self-regulatory efforts without “voluntary” government guidelines?

8. Has the IWG determined the secondary economic impacts of the proposed marketing restrictions on American communities and schools, such as reduced financial sponsorships for athletic teams?

9. How does the IWG reach consensus on its recommendations? How does it address differences of opinion?

10. Does the IWG interpret its mandate as giving it the flexibility to recommend against adopting food standards or food marketing restrictions, either for children generally or for some age groups, if it concludes that is the best course? Or does it interpret the mandate as requiring it to recommend some type of standards and restrictions, even if the costs substantially outweigh the benefits?

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