July 16, 2010


Working Group Delays Report

The Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children did not meet the July 15 deadline for a report to Congress. The Working Group is comprised of representatives from the Federal Trade Commission, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Last December the Working Group released draft voluntary nutritional standards for foods marketed to children, setting limits on the amount of salt, fat and sugar permitted in such foods. The draft standards, which can be found here, would eliminate an enormous amount of food products, including virtually all cereals, soups, yoghurts and many others. A revised draft was expected with the July 15 report. No reason was given for the delay, nor was there any indication when the report will be done.

Indecency Rules Overturned

A Federal appeals court has ruled that the Federal Trade Commission’s policies on broadcast indecency are unconstitutionally vague and violate the First Amendment. The panel said that the rules create “a chilling effect that goes far beyond the fleeting expletives at issue here.” The court said that the Commission was free to craft a new rule, but stated that it would have to be very specific. Broadcasters had challenged the rules after the agency took action over “fleeting expletives” by celebrities during live televised events. Broadcasters have complained that the rules were subjective and there was no way to know with certainty what words would or would not be acceptable in given circumstances and times. While this decision is not based on commercial speech doctrine, it does show this Court is very respectful of First Amendment concerns.

Financial Overhaul Closure to Becoming Law

The U.S. Senate has passed the financial regulatory reform legislation by a vote of 60-38, with 60 votes being the minimum needed to avoid a filibuster. The reforms are expected to be signed into law by the President next week. The final legislation did not include the expansion of FTC rulemaking authority that was opposed by the AAF and many other industry groups.

Consumers Trust DTC Advertising

According to a recent survey by Prevention Magazine, most consumers believe direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical advertising on television and in magazines is fair and balanced. A majority say they see and pay attention to both benefit and risk information. DTC advertising is often criticized by members of Congress. Eliminating the deductibility of DTC advertising was considered – and rejected – as a source of funding for healthcare reform passed earlier this year.

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