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ANA Opposes Food Marketing Bill in Nebraska

ANA has filed comments in opposition to legislation in the Nebraska Legislature that would impose serious restrictions on the sale and marketing of kids meals that include toys by restaurants and convenience stores.  The Agriculture Committee will hold a hearing on this proposal on February 1st. 

This proposal follows on the heels of a class action lawsuit that was filed in state court in California in December, alleging that the marketing of Happy Meals by McDonald’s is deceptive and unfair and violates the California Unfair Competition Law.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is representing the mother in the lawsuit.  The complaint is available here.     

The Nebraska bill raises a number of serious First Amendment and commerce clause issues.  Our comments address these concerns and outline the various proactive steps that marketers and the advertising community have taken to address childhood obesity. 

If your company conducts business in Nebraska, it would be very helpful if you would contact members of the committee to express your opposition to this proposal.  Contact information for the committee is available at http://news.legislature.ne.gov/agr/.

Background

The “Children’s Health and Responsible Corporate Marketing Act” (LB 126) was introduced on January 6th by Senator Bill Avery.  The bill would restrict the sale and marketing of “packaged children’s meals” that include a toy or other “consumer incentive item” unless the meals meet specific nutrition requirements: does not exceed 500 calories; does not exceed 10% of calories from saturated fat with a maximum of 6 grams saturated fat; contains no more than one-half gram artificial trans fat per item in the meal; does not exceed 10% of calories from added sugars; does not exceed 640 milligrams of sodium; includes one cup of fruits or vegetables, not including fried vegetables.

Under the bill, any violation of the Act is declared a Class IV misdemeanor and the Department of Agriculture is also authorized to impose civil fines of up to $1,000 per day or activity for any violations. 

We are concerned that similar legislation may show up in other states so it is important for the marketing community to defeat this bill.  Criminalizing the advertising of legal products would obviously create very dangerous precedents.

If you have any information about this bill or proposals in any other states to tax or restrict food and beverage advertising, please contact Keith Scarborough, Senior Vice President for Government Relations in ANA’s Washington, DC office at kscarborough@ana.net or (202) 296-1883.

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