FTC's Leibowitz: Look For New Industry Food Marketing Guidelines Next Week

Publish date:

Federal Trade Commission chairman Jon Leibowitz told a Hill hearing audience Thursday to expect new self-regulatory guidelines to be issued by food marketers in the next week or so.

That came at a government regulatory reform hearing in the House Oversight Subcommittee Thursday.

Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) said she was concerned about food marketing guidelines the FTC had issues, saying they could hamper free speech and the economy without reducing childhood obesity. She also pointed out that some of the food in a USDA program would not meet those guidelines.

She asked the chairman whether they weren't actually government standards rather than voluntary.

Leibowitz countered that they were indeed voluntary, that the FTC had no enforcement authority, and that the FTC guidelines were issued at the direction of Congress in FTC appropriation legislation.

Boting that he was speaking for himself rather than the agency, Leibowitz took a pragmatic view, saying tha, if his own kids were eating Special K cereal and yogurt for breakfast, which he conceded would not quite meet the new FTC guidelines, he would be "pretty happy" with that.

He said that food marketer guidelines should be forthcoming by next week, and that "if they come up with good ones, which I think they will," that should be taken into account.

Leibowitz said the FTC should not impose any kind of top-down technology mandate on online privacy protection, which was in response to Blackburn asking if it should. Heimowitz has consistently said that online privacy protections should be flexible and be led by industry self-regulation rather than government mandate. A top-down regime "is the last thing you want to do."