Alert: July 11, 2011

July 11, 2011

To: AAF Members
From: Clark Rector, Executive Vice President-Government Affairs
Re: Interagency Working Group (IWG) Petition

The advertising and marketing community is facing one of the most significant threats we have face in many years, and we need your help.

In 2009, Congress directed an Interagency Working Group (IWG) –comprised of the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Center for Disease Control – to conduct a study of food marketed to children and teens and to make recommendations to Congress. Instead of completing that study and report, the Interagency Working Group (IWG) has proposed sweeping restrictions of food marketing that would curtail marketing of thousands of healthy food products, force dramatic changes to food packaging, undermine financial support for television shows and charitable organizations, and radically change the way consumers receive information about food.

While the agencies claim the guidelines are voluntary, they would in fact be treated as de facto nutrition and advertising standards.

The guidelines are so restrictive that only 12 of the 100 most consumed foods in the U.S. could be advertised to children under the age of 18.  The marketing standards are so strict that any program with a viewership of 20% or more of adolescents between 12 and 17 would be off limits. 

The agencies have done no cost/benefit analysis and released the restrictions even though there is no evidence of any causal link between advertising and childhood obesity.

You can help restore some sanity to the process.  We are asking that your advertising club agree to sign the attached letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (FDA and CDC), U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz. 

Time is of the essence.  We would like to send the letter this week.  Please let me know ASAP that your club will sign the letter.  You may email me at or call me at 800-999-2231 with your confirmation or if you have any questions or comments.

Thank you for your help and fast turnaround. 


Clark Rector
Executive Vice President-Government Affairs
American Advertising Federation

Dear Secretary Sebelius, Secretary Vilsack, and Chairman Leibowitz:

We share your commitment to ending childhood obesity and our members have sponsored or participated in national, state and local initiatives to promote healthier lifestyles and diets. Unfortunately, the Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles for Food Marketed to Children by the Interagency Working Group (IWG) ignores the progress being made by our industries and should be withdrawn.
As you know, report language included in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act asked the IWG to conduct a study and offer recommendations concerning food marketing to children and teens. The IWG was directed to consider "evidence concerning the role of consumption of nutrients, ingredients, and foods in preventing or promoting the development of obesity among such children." The IWG also was asked to determine the scope of the media to which such standards should apply.

However, the IWG did not complete a study, as Congress directed, and it did not present recommendations to Congress. Instead of examining and reporting on evidence of marketing and food consumption to obesity, the IWG developed nutritional standards to guide industry that are far more restrictive than other federal nutrition standards, including standards for the WIC program and the school meals program. The IWG defined television audience composition to include large percentages of adults and also broadly defined “marketing” to include marketing to the general public, including point-of-sale displays, packaging and sponsorships.

Although the IWG proposal would require dramatic changes to food recipes and marketing, the IWG has produced no evidence that the proposed marketing restrictions would contribute to long-term changes in eating behavior nor has the IWG measured the costs to broadcasters or other media, advertisers, food manufacturers, food retailers, farmers, or the community organizations that rely on the support of our industries. Experts estimate that as many as 74,000 jobs are in jeopardy. Moreover, the IWG ignores significant changes that have been made in food recipes and marketing, including dramatic changes in the amount and composition of advertisements viewed by children on children’s television programming.

While we all share the Administration’s goal of ending childhood obesity within a generation, we believe the Administration should carefully assess the progress made by our industries and provide peer-reviewed evidence that proposed marketing restrictions would contribute to long-term changes in childhood obesity.

Because the IWG did not follow the instructions of Congress, we urge you to withdraw the Preliminary Proposed Nutrition Principles for Food Marketed to Children.