Thursday, December 29, 2011

Healthy Foods for Children

From The Sunlight Foundation:

Food and media companies donated generously to lawmakers opposing food marketing guidelines for kids

By Nancy Watzman Dec 20 2011 4:50 p.m.

Last summer, a bipartisan group of House members from Pennsylvania wrote federal agencies complaining that proposed guidelines restricting the marketing of unhealthy food to children marked “an alarming regulatory overreach.” They emphasized their sugary roots in “the leading confectionary producing state in the nation.”

Indeed, Pennsylvania is home to the 117-year-old Hershey Company, maker of the ubiquitous Hershey’s kiss. But what the lawmakers from the Keystone State didn’t say was that they had other “constituents”—out-of-state campaign cash constituents, many of them Washington-based trade associations.

The massive lobbying push by food and media interests against the controversial guidelines appeared to reach its goal last weekend as Congress voted to delay the guidelines as part the budget deal. Tucked into the massive bill: A measure, backed by opponents of the guidelines, calling for the government to study the costs of any advertising limitations before implementing them. That will effectively put off any efforts to issuing the voluntary guidelines on the marketing of foods high in fat, sugar and sodium to children.

The Pennsylvanians' letter, sent July 18, was one of two sent by members of Congress to head off the marketing guidelines that the Sunlight Foundation obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. An analysis using of campaign contributors to the two groups of lawmakers reveals that some of the groups lobbying against the ad guidelines have plenty of chits to collect from members of Congress.

The 15 Pennsylvania members of Congress who signed the letter raising concerns about the guidelines have together collected at least $546,765 in campaign contributions from interests that reported lobbying against restrictions on marketing unhealthy food to kids. The contributions included $159,291 from the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), $153,500 from the National Restaurant Association, and $61,660 from the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB).


The Nebraska-based company Con-Agra is Sen. Michael Johanns’ second largest career donor. As a member of the Agriculture Committee, the Nebraska Republican has drawn contributions from food companies based around the country, such as Kentucky-based Yum! Brands, Illinois-based Kraft foods, and Georgia-based Coca-Cola. Johanns was one of the lead signers of the Senate letter.

Rep. Joe Pitts, R-Pa., a lead on the House letter, also posted an opinion piece in October on his website charging that the nutrition standards “would make American grocery stores look like … old Soviet Bloc stores…Chocolate Easter Bunnies would be made extinct, along with gummy snacks and pasta shaped like cartoon characters.”

As a member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, Pitts has drawn increasing amounts of contributions over the years from the communications industry, including more than $33,000 from the NCTA and more than $13,000 from NAB.

To read the whole story go here.

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