Proposed Interagency “Voluntary” Guidelines — Censoring Speech While Stifling Free Enterprise

Lee Doren, 202-331-2259

Nicole Ciandella, 202-331-2773

Washington, D.C., July 12, 2011 – The Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (Working Group), comprised of representatives from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is proposing “voluntary” principles to guide industry to reduce childhood obesity. To accomplish this goal, the Working Group recommends limits on marketing foods to children, unless those foods meet certain nutritional requirements. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a non-profit policy organization in Washington, DC believes this is a move in the wrong direction.

While the Working Group claims these proposals are voluntary, these agencies have enormous power over the food industry. Therefore, in practice companies will likely be coerced into following the burdensome guidelines for fear of upsetting government bureaucrats who regulate them. Moreover, Michelle Minton, policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argues these guidelines are actually de facto regulations of free speech that will stifle free enterprise.

“Commercial entities, like individuals, have the right to free expression, and that freedom ought to extend to their ability to freely communicate their products to any potential consumer, so long as that communication is not fraudulent,” said Minton. “These guidelines will also increase the regulatory burden on businesses. Data collection and compliance will cost significant amounts of resources and possibly derail individual companies’ current efforts to improve product quality and marketing standards,” she said.

In fact, research conducted by the FTC indicates food manufacturers, when permitted to discuss nutritional elements in their products, compete to produce and sell healthier foods. Over the last three decades, health-conscious consumers have demanded increasingly higher quality, and a greater variety, of healthy food. These market forces have adequately serviced the needs of consumers, while improving health. The “voluntary” guidelines are simply regulatory overreach.

To read the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Submitted Comments Regarding the Proposal, Click Here

Read more from Michelle Minton here