AAF Government Report

May 27, 2011

Clark Rector Jr., Executive Vice President – Government Affairs

Working Group Hears Comments

On May 24, representatives of the Interagency Working Group (IWG) that recently released voluntary nutrition principles for food marketed to children conducted a forum to hear public comments on the proposal. The IWG consists of the Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration, Center for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Because presenters were limited to three minutes, most of the comments were unable to achieve the depth of analysis that the topic deserves. Given those limitations, representatives of numerous food manufacturers’ associations collectively made a compelling case that the principles as currently released would make the advertising for a vast array of food products impossible, and likely cause a great reduction in the advertising of healthier option foods. The presenters also pointed out that the limitations are unnecessary because under the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, food companies have already reformulated countless food products and voluntarily limited advertising to children.

Other issues troubling the industry are the inclusion of adolescents age 12-17 as a group that must be protected from food advertising, and the question of how “voluntary” are guidelines that are issued by agencies with regulatory power over the affected industries.

The IWG has extended the period for written comments until July 14. AAF will submit comments.

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FTC Seeks Input on Online Advertising

In 2000, the Federal Trade Commission released Dot Com Disclosures: Information about Online Advertising, which provided guidance to businesses as to how the general principles of advertising law applies to advertising done on the Internet. The Commission is now looking into whether advances in technology necessitate updating the guidance and has invited comment on the previous document as well as many specific additional questions. Comments will be accepted until July 11.

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Dual Panels Claim Privacy

Two Senate committees are currently looking into online privacy issues. Both the Senate Commerce Committee and the newly formed Judiciary subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law have recently held hearings on privacy matters. For the moment, all legislative proposals have come from the Commerce Committee. Legislation has been introduced by Chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., (S. 913), and committee members Senators John Kerry, D-Mass., and John McCain, R-Ariz., (S. 799).

Having two committees working on privacy could actually dampen the prospects of legislation being passed. Privacy is a complicated issue. Adding cross-committee jurisdictional issues may add another layer of difficulty and further slow the process. Given the fact that the bills that have been introduced are highly problematic, the increased scrutiny may ultimately benefit industry and consumers by allowing lawmakers more time to find solutions that work.

The AAF is hopeful that lawmakers will conclude that an effective solution already exists in the form of the industry’s self-regulatory program, www.aboutads.info, and that comprehensive legislation is unnecessary.

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