Lawmakers tell administration to back off on food ad restrictions for kids

More than 100 House members and 25 senators of both parties have sent at least seven letters to federal regulators over the past month urging them to back off proposed restrictions on food advertising for children.

The guidelines, released in April, aim to fight childhood obesity by asking food companies to voluntarily refrain from advertising to children foods that don't meet specific nutritional standards. The food industry says the guidelines would hurt business and cost jobs while doing little or nothing to curb obesity.

A motley group of lawmakers with little in common are now raising similar concerns. Everyone from freshmen Republicans worried about government overreach to lawmakers who represent dairy farmers and candy makers is weighing in as federal regulators sift through the public comments they've received about their preliminary proposal.

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The guidelines are voluntary, but some critics say the food industry is heavily regulated and unlikely to want to rub government officials the wrong way. They also worry that food companies that don't want to abide by the guidelines - and media companies that might want to run their ads - could hold back because of the fear of being ostracized.

The strongest critics, predictably, have been on the right.

Freshmen House Republicans decry the "alarming regulatory overreach" of the proposal and are asking regulators to simply withdraw it.

And 18 Senate Republicans, joined by Nebraska Democrat Ben Nelson, want the administration to "withhold any further actions" until regulators answer questions about the science behind their proposal and its potential impact on jobs and the economy.

Additionally, 15 of the 19 members of Pennsylvania's House delegation warned that under the proposed guidelines, "most food and beverage products manufactured in the state of Pennsylvania" - America's biggest candy maker - "could no longer be marketed to children and teens."

"We strongly urge you," the letter says, "to withdraw these overreaching and misguided principles that blatantly discriminate against an industry that has made extensive voluntary strides over the years to reduce advertising to children."

Likewise, the bipartisan Dairy Farmers Caucus points out that under the proposed guidelines "many cheeses, yogurts, and some fluid milk" would fall short - even though the Department of Agriculture believes that dairy is essential for healthy children.

Democrats for the most part have been more muted in their criticism, not least because the fight against childhood obesity is a priority for First Lady Michelle ObamaMichelle ObamaMichelle Obama holds fitness 'bootcamps' for friends Obama marks Father’s Day: ‘I'm most proud to be Sasha and Malia's dad’ Obamas invited to be honorary football coach at University of Michigan MORE.

A letter signed by 34 centrist House Democrats argues that more information "on the economic costs and benefits" of the proposal is needed before going forward.

And six Democratic senators - Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowNo certainty on cost-sharing payments to insurers Dems express concerns about Trump's proposed rural development cuts Trump, Clinton campaign aides launch their own bids MORE (Mich.), Robert CaseyBob CaseyLive coverage: Senate Dems hold talkathon to protest GOP health plan Ryan Phillippe to visit Capitol Hill to advocate for military caregivers Dem senators seize on Senate press crackdown MORE (Pa.), Max BaucusMax BaucusLawmakers: Leave advertising tax break alone GOP: FBI firing won't slow agenda White House tax-reform push is ‘game changer,’ says ex-chairman MORE (Mont.), Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharTime to get Trump’s new antitrust cop on the beat Going national with automatic voter registration Wildfires won't stop at the edge of public land — sustainability policy shouldn't either MORE (Minn.), Kristen Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Michael BennetMichael BennetDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Trump welcomes Gorsuch on first Supreme Court visit Why higher education is in need of regulatory relief MORE (Col.) - wrote to "encourage [regulators] to give thorough consideration to the 'real world impacts' associated with these recommendations."

Meanwhile, Rep. G.K. ButterfieldG.K. ButterfieldVoting advocates notch win at Supreme Court Supreme Court strikes down NC districts as illegally based on race Dems once critical of Comey line up to denounce his firing MORE (D-N.C.) sent his own letter, arguing that the regulators working on the proposal have produced "no evidence that I am aware of that the proposed restrictions will serve the government's goals of changing long-term eating habits."