The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) is non-profit organization in Washington, D.C., with a longstanding interest in protecting and expanding consumer choice in the marketplace, and in opposing overregulation of commercial speech. While we recognize that obesity is a serious problem, particularly among the nations’ youth and understand regulators’ desire to address the issue, we oppose the current proposal due to its conflicts with the right of commercial free speech and the deleterious effects it would have on vibrancy and competition in the marketplace.
Even though the Proposed Nutrition Principles are presented as voluntary, non-binding guidance documents all too frequently become viewed by government and regulated industries alike as de facto standards. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that these principles will come to be seen as voluntary in name only, and thus set commercial speech restrictions that would otherwise conflict with First Amendment principles. In addition, the proposal would impose a significant regulatory burden on companies, undermine existing, ongoing efforts by leading food producers to formulate and market healthier products, and inappropriately expand the proper role of government in a way that limits consumer choice.