The Corner

Taking on the Food Regulators

I’m glad to see House Republicans push back on the Obama administration’s outrageous and potentially economically damaging regulatory actions directed at food manufacturers and marketers. 

In a letter sent Monday to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz, 22 Republican members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee issued a firm suggestion that the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children (IWG) scrap their “current proposal and start afresh.” (I’ve written previously about the IWG’s actions here and here.)

If you need a reminder of just what shenanigans the IWG is up to, here’s a quick primer: The working group — made up of four powerful federal agencies — recently recommended that the food industry suspend advertising for foods and beverages that don’t meet the IWG’s own “nutrition principles.” So, which foods currently fail to meet these new IWG-designed principles? Oh, just a few totally healthy items like pretzels, nuts, popcorn, crackers, milk, yogurt, bread, bottled water, and frozen yogurts, among others.

Language in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act — the bill that created the IWG — directed members of the working group to “conduct a study and develop recommendations for standards for the marketing of food” and to “submit to Congress . . . a report containing the findings and recommendations.” The idea being that Congress would then review the report and decide if regulation was needed. 

But instead of following its legislative mandate, the IWG circumvented Congress and issued its own set of proposed “voluntary standards” for food manufacturers — standards that if implemented could cost upwards of 74,000 jobs and cost the food industry billions of dollars in lost revenue.   

In the House letter, lawmakers state that they are concerned that these “nutrition principles have been produced without the benefit of the study” and that these recommendations basically amount to “a shot in the dark.”

It’s interesting to consider why the IWG acted in this way. Why did these agencies simply ignore the requirement that a report be produced for congressional review? Could it be that there’s simply no scientific support for the regulatory recommendations they ultimately seek to make? Perhaps the IWG participants looked at the most recent study conducted by the Institute of Medicine, which found that the “current evidence is not sufficient to demonstrate a causal relationship between television advertising and obesity,” and decided it was best to just act independent of a study, scientific evidence to the contrary be damned!

Quite a separate action has taken place on the Senate side. Sen. Dick Durbin seems wildly supportive of the IWG’s actions. In fact, language praising the work of the IWG was approved by a Senate Appropriations subcommittee yesterday (the language goes to the full committee today). Apparently, Durbin doesn’t mind being ignored.

Durbin conveniently twists the original authorizing language for the IWG, saying that it was “established to develop voluntary nutrition standards and marketing definitions for foods marketed to children.” Wrong! The IWG was established to “conduct a study and issue recommendations” to Congress. Durbin’s language goes on to say that “studies show that food marketing affects children’s food choices, food preferences, diets, and health.” Wrong again! What studies? Could the senator please submit those for the record?

Durbin’s make-believe doesn’t stop there; he goes on to say, “The Committee recognizes the IWG’s careful review of existing science, nutrition, and marketing standards.” Wrong again! To date, the IWG hasn’t released a study. Unless the IWG accidently left the other copies in Durbin’s offices, the world isn’t aware of this praiseworthy study. The sham continues; Durbin’s report language says, “The majority of child-targeted marketing continues to be for products of poor nutritional value.” Wrong again! 

According to Georgetown Economic Services, food advertising during children’s programs declined 50 percent between 2004 and 2010, and 17 of the leading food companies (which represent more than three-quarters of the products advertized to children under twelve) have pledged in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative to advertise only healthy foods.

These efforts on the part of congressional Democrats to regulate the food industry into financial ruin will do nothing to improve the health of children. That small fact betrays the real motivation here: growing government no matter the cost.

— Julie Gunlock is a senior fellow at the Independent Women’s Forum.

Most Popular


Put Up or Shut Up on These Accusations, Hillary

Look, one 2016 candidate being prone to wild and baseless accusations is enough. Appearing on Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s podcast, Hillary Clinton suggested that 2016 Green Party candidate Jill Stein was a “Russian asset,” that Republicans and Russians were promoting the Green Party, and ... Read More
Politics & Policy

Elizabeth Warren Is Not Honest

If you want to run for office, political consultants will hammer away at one point: Tell stories. People respond to stories. We’ve been a story-telling species since our fur-clad ancestors gathered around campfires. Don’t cite statistics. No one can remember statistics. Make it human. Make it relatable. ... Read More
National Review


Today is my last day at National Review. It's an incredibly bittersweet moment. While I've only worked full-time since May, 2015, I've contributed posts and pieces for over fifteen years. NR was the first national platform to publish my work, and now -- thousands of posts and more than a million words later -- I ... Read More
Economy & Business

Andrew Yang, Snake Oil Salesman

Andrew Yang, the tech entrepreneur and gadfly, has definitely cleared the bar for a successful cause candidate. Not only has he exceeded expectations for his polling and fundraising, not only has he developed a cult following, not only has he got people talking about his signature idea, the universal basic ... Read More

Feminists Have Turned on Pornography

Since the sexual revolution of the 1960s, the feminist movement has sought to condemn traditional sexual ethics as repressive, misogynistic, and intolerant. As the 2010s come to a close, it might be fair to say that mainstream culture has reached the logical endpoint of this philosophy. Whereas older Americans ... Read More
White House

The Impeachment Defense That Doesn’t Work

If we’ve learned anything from the last couple of weeks, it’s that the “perfect phone call” defense of Trump and Ukraine doesn’t work. As Andy and I discussed on his podcast this week, the “perfect” defense allows the Democrats to score easy points by establishing that people in the administration ... Read More

Democrats Think They Can Win without You

A  few days ago, Ericka Anderson, an old friend of National Review, popped up in the pages of the New York Times lamenting that “the Democratic presidential field neglects abundant pools of potential Democrat converts, leaving persuadable audiences — like independents and Trump-averse, anti-abortion ... Read More
PC Culture

Defiant Dave Chappelle

When Dave Chappelle’s Netflix special Sticks & Stones came out in August, the overwhelming response from critics was that it was offensive, unacceptable garbage. Inkoo Kang of Slate declared that Chappelle’s “jokes make you wince.” Garrett Martin, in the online magazine Paste, maintained that the ... Read More