Congress Derails Proposed Guidelines To Restrict Marketing Junk Food To Children

A provision in the $1 trillion spending agreement reached by Congress a few weeks ago undermines the voluntary guidelines proposed by federal agencies to restrict the marketing of food high in sodium and sugar to children. The provision requires federal agencies to create a cost-benefit analysis of the proposal by the Federal Trade Commission’s Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children. Mandated by Congress in 2009, the proposed guidelines recommend voluntary regulations of food and beverage marketing for children two to 11 years old.

The FTC states that the “primary objective” of the Working Group in developing the guidelines “has been the promotion of children’s health through better diet, with particular – but not sole – emphasis on reducing the incidence of childhood obesity.”

Congressional members who support requiring a cost-benefit analysis of the proposed guidelines have received campaign contributions from the food and beverage sector. Take Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO) who sponsored the requirement in the House version of the omnibus spending bill. During the 2011-2012 election cycle as of December 5, 2011, Emerson received a total of $3,000 from the food and beverage sector, according to Open Secrets. She specifically received $1,000 from the American Beverage Association, and $2,000 from PepsiCo Inc. During the 2010 election cycle, Emerson received $1,000 from YUM! Brands, which includes KFC and Taco Bell.

A group of 19 Republican senators sent a letter last summer to federal agencies concerned about the proposed guidelines. The senators, according to Sunlight Foundation, received a combined total of $262,896 from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), $403,700 from the National Restaurant Association and $242,864 from the National Association of Broadcasters. The senators received over $3 million during their careers from interests that have lobbied against the guidelines.

Daniel L. Jaffe, Executive Vice President, Government Relations Association of National Advertisers testified about the proposed guidelines during a congressional hearing in October. Jaffe commended Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) “and the other members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee” for writing a letter to the IWG requesting answers to  “ten key specific questions about their proposal.”

During the October hearing, Upton called the proposed guidelines “so extreme that they would prevent the marketing to children of foods that most parents consider a win if their kids eat.” So far, Upton has received $12,000 of campaign contributions from the food and beverage sector for the 2012 election cycle. The contributions included $2,500 from the Coca-Cola Co., $5,000 from McDonald’s Corp., and $2,500 from YUM! Brands.

Photo credits: Flickr user, mikebarry

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by

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