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Eating Fruits And Vegetables Is Not A Job Killer

Major food manufacturers are readying their next attack on nutrition by calling proposed food marketing guidelines “job killers” that will devastate the American economy.

Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission, along with three other Federal agencies, proposed voluntary guidelines for marketing food to children to reduce sugars, fats and salts and increase fruits, whole grains and vegetables in the diets of American kids. In 2008, led by Senators Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Congress asked for the recommendations to address the nations’ growing obesity crisis.

Studies show that one third of all children aged 10 to 17 are overweight or obese. In the past three decades rates have more than doubled among kids aged 2 to 5 and more than tripled among those ages 6 through 11.

A coalition of major manufacturers of processed foods, fast-food chains, and the media industry that depends on their advertising dollars are spending millions to derail the proposed guidelines. The FTC has already started to trim the proposal in response to the lobbying blitzkrieg but industry wants to go ever further. They want to use an industry-designed scheme that would declare Chocolate Lucky Charms, Marshmallow Pebbles and Cookie Crisp cereals as healthy.

Despite industry claims, these guidelines aren’t mandatory; they are voluntary guidelines developed by an independent committee of nutrition experts about how we can improve children’s health.  They are sensible, science-based recommendations.

That hasn’t stopped industry predictions of economic disaster. According to comments filed by General Mills’ to the Interagency Working Group “the economic consequences [of the guidelines] for American consumers and American agriculture would be devastating.”  They also predict “severe” economic consequences for the media industry and their employees.

They argue the voluntary guidelines would cause consumers to eat more fruits and vegetables produced in other countries and therefore fewer grains grown in America. According to research funded by the Grocery Manufacturers of America “demand for fruits and vegetables would increase by 1009% and 226% respectively” resulting in almost $500 billion more spent on imported food and $30 billion less on domestically grown grain.

Even if the voluntary guidelines were that effective and their study accurate, it’s audacious marketing spin to turn an overwhelmingly positive victory for public health into a big government, job killing attack on freedom.

Another industry-funded study claimed that the voluntary guidelines would result in the loss of 74,000 jobs. An analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, found the study riddled with “implausible” assumptions, historical inconsistencies and incomplete analyses of potential impacts to both the industry and economy as a whole. For example, the industry study assumes, without justification, a 20% decline in advertising and completely ignores the likely scenario in which companies shift advertising to other products or audiences. It also ignores the fact that there has been no negative economic impact since industry adopted its own guidelines in 2006. In fact, EPI concludes that the guidelines could have no impact on jobs or could even lead to job growth in other parts of the economy.

Finally, General Mills adds that the $1.6 billion in food advertising expenditures “would go up in smoke.” “$1.6 billion in economic activity cannot disappear without an impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods” they wrote.

While it’s likely food conglomerates would redirect their advertising dollars, media companies would also look for and find plenty of buyers.  In fact, they’ve done it before.  When Congress banned tobacco ads on TV and Radio in 1970 media companies stood to lose $220 million in annual cigarette advertising. Like their counterparts today, the networks, and broadcasters associations lobbied hard alongside big tobacco against the ban.

The media industry did fine. Total TV and Radio advertising sales has increased every year before the ban and after. According to media analysts, in 1969 ad expenditures on TV and radio were $4.85 billion. In 1972, they were $5.7 billion.

For decades, industries have opposed laws, rules and even basic consumer information that have made us all healthier. They always predict disaster but, in fact, they respond with new ideas and innovations and we all benefit. These voluntary guidelines merely suggest a path that industry should embrace.

By: David Cohen, Director, Cry Wolf Project, published in The Hill Congress Blog, November 23, 2011

November 27, 2011 Posted by | Lobbyists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pay-For-Delay”: Ending Drug Companies’ Deals

An upcoming report by the Federal Trade Commission shows that brand-name pharmaceutical makers continue to cut questionable deals with generic manufacturers that delay the introduction of cheaper drugs onto the market.

Such pay-for-delay arrangements hurt consumers and increase costs for federal programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, according to the report, a copy of which was obtained by the editorial board. These deals are not illegal, but they should be.

Pharmaceutical companies rightly enjoy strong protections for products that often take years and billions of dollars to develop. These protections were so strong at one point that they discouraged would-be competitors from jumping in. The Hatch-Waxman Act of 1984 meant to address this problem by allowing generics to market “bio-equivalent” drugs as long as they did not infringe on the brand-name drug’s patent; the generic could also proceed if it proved the brand-name patent was invalid. The goal was to enhance competition and lower drug prices. That goal is thwarted when brand-name manufacturers engage in the popular practice of paying generic-drug makers to keep their products off the market.

In 2004, the FTC did not identify a single settlement in a patent litigation matter involving drug makers that raised pay-for-delay concerns. In its new report, the agency points to 28 cases that bear the telltale signs of pay-for-delay, including “compensation to the generic manufacturer and a restriction on the generic manufacturer’s ability to market its product.”

Sens. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) have introduced the Preserve Access to Affordable Generics Act to close the pay-for-delay loophole. The bill would make such schemes presumptively illegal and empower the FTC to challenge suspicious arrangements in federal court. The most recent version gives companies a chance to preserve certain deals if “clear and convincing evidence” proves that their “pro-competitive benefits outweigh the anti-competitive harms.” The Obama administration estimates that eliminating pay-for-delay could save the government $8.8 billion over 10 years; the Congressional Budget Office offers a dramatically more conservative savings estimate of roughly $3 billion over the same period.

The legislation should appeal to the deficit-reduction “supercommittee,” which has been tasked with identifying ways to cut the federal deficit.

By: Editorial Board Opinion, The Washington Post, October 24, 2011

October 26, 2011 Posted by | Big Pharma, Congress, Consumers, Government, Health Care Costs | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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