Republican Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee sent a letter today to key administration officials involved in the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG). Congress established the IWG in 2009, instructing the panel to conduct a study and provide policy recommendations on food marketing standards. To date, the IWG has still not provided Congress with the requested report and instead has issued its own set of proposed industry principles. The lawmakers are concerned the IWG's overreaching recommendations would harm the economy and achieve little in the fight against childhood obesity.
Signing the letter were House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade Subcommittee Chairman Mary Bono Mack (R-CA), Environment and the Economy Subcommittee Chairman John Shimkus (R-IL), Lee Terry (R-NE), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Michael Burgess (R-TX), Mike Pompeo (R-KS), Pete Olson (R-TX), David McKinley (R-WV), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), Gregg Harper (R-MS), Leonard Lance (R-NJ), Phil Gingrey (R-GA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Bob Latta (R-OH), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Brian Bilbray (R-CA), Charles Bass (R-NH), Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA).
"The Nutrition Principles, having been produced without the benefit of the study that was to inform IWG's recommendations, are little better than a shot in the dark. The IWG admits that if they were fully implemented as proposed, "a large percentage of food products currently in the marketplace' would not comply," wrote the members.
Members also expressed frustration over the IWG's failure to present scientific evidence to justify its proposed regulatory standards.
"Significantly, the IWG offers no scientific support for the notion that restricting advertising will actually help reduce childhood obesity. In its most recent study, the Institute of Medicine found that "current evidence is not sufficient' to demonstrate a causal relationship between television advertising and obesity. Other nations have tried food advertising bans in recent years without documented success. What has been documented from experiments elsewhere is an increase in prices for foods that are not allowed to be advertised. "
The letter instructs the IWG to withdraw its current recommendations and conduct a study as originally instructed.
"Under the circumstances, we believe that the IWG should withdraw the current proposal and start afresh. Conducting the study Congress asked for should be the first step in the process, not an afterthought or post hoc rationalization. The IWG should base its recommendations to Congress on sound science, and should explicitly evaluate the benefits and cost of different approaches Congress could take. The IWG should scrupulously avoid making recommendations in the form of a black and white quasi-regulation (like the proposed Nutrition Principles) that others can use to bludgeon companies into compliance."