Advertisers Hope House Bill Will Squash New Food Guidelines

Language would cut funds needed for implementation

Advertisers are hopeful that a clause in a new House appropriations bill for 2012 will throw a monkey wrench into the government's proposal for new guidelines on marketing food to children, guidelines that the advertising and marketing industries find unreasonable at best.

The clause, inserted in to the bill by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., dictates that none of the funds allocated in the bill may be used by the Federal Trade Commission to move forward on the guidelines until the Interagency Working Group (made up of the FTC, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) conducts a cost-benefit analysis. The full bill is headed for the House floor, where it is likely to pass, though it will then run into the Democrats who control the Senate, not to mention President Obama's veto pen. 

"We think the provision will get strong support, but we'll just have to see," said Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of government relations for the Association of National Advertisers.

Since the preliminary guidelines were published in April, the ANA and the food, beverage, and restaurant industries have been fighting them tooth and nail. Though the guidelines would be voluntary, the affected industries say that in practice it's "backdoor regulation," since the agencies proposing the guidelines have sweeping oversight of the affected businesses. 

Measures like the language Emerson inserted into this appropriations bill are a common tactic in Congress, which can use its power over the government's purse strings to stop the Executive Branch from pursuing policies it doesn't like.