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.

ADVERTISEMENT

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 LeVaughn Robinson ObamaHundreds turn out to see Michelle Obama on one-year anniversary of 'Becoming' Michelle Obama presents Lin-Manuel Miranda with National Portrait Award Resistance or unhinged behavior? Partisan hatred reaches Trump's family 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 StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowOvernight Energy: EPA delays board's review of 'secret science' rules | Keystone pipeline spill affecting more land than thought | Dems seek probe into Forest Service grants tied to Alaska logging Democrats ask for investigation of Forest Service grant related to logging in Tongass National Forest Centrist Democrats seize on state election wins to rail against Warren's agenda MORE (Mich.), Robert CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyNew ObamaCare enrollment period faces Trump headwinds Scrap House defense authorization provision benefitting Russia Here are the Senate Democrats backing a Trump impeachment inquiry over Ukraine call MORE (Pa.), Max BaucusMax Sieben BaucusBottom line Overnight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor MORE (Mont.), Amy KlobucharAmy Jean KlobucharHillicon Valley: Commerce extends Huawei waiver | Senate Dems unveil privacy bill priorities | House funding measure extends surveillance program | Trump to tour Apple factory | GOP bill would restrict US data going to China Fox News anchor apologizes for saying Booker dropped out of 2020 race Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president MORE (Minn.), Kristen Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetFox News anchor apologizes for saying Booker dropped out of 2020 race Klobuchar unveils plan to secure elections as president New poll catapults Buttigieg to frontrunner position in Iowa MORE (Col.) - wrote to "encourage [regulators] to give thorough consideration to the 'real world impacts' associated with these recommendations."

Meanwhile, Rep. G.K. ButterfieldGeorge (G.K.) Kenneth ButterfieldNorth Carolina poised to pass new congressional maps Black leaders say African American support in presidential primary is fluid North Carolina ruling could cost GOP House seats 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."