Thursday, December 04, 2003

Rights and Reason: Lieberman Seeks Probe on Snack Food

The AP reports Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman is gunning after snack food.

The Connecticut senator, who led the fight to put parental warnings on movie, video game and music advertising, wants the Federal Trade Commission to determine whether there is a connection between junk food advertising and the rise in obesity among youngsters.

"We're talking about how the government can get back on the side of parents and families and support them in raising healthy children and giving them good values," said Dan Gerstein, deputy communications director for Lieberman's campaign. "Governments can't raise children. That's the job of parents. But we can help to pull with them and pull for them."

As president, Lieberman would push for three interim moves while the FTC conducts its study:

  • Require junk food advertisements to include nutritional information that
    somehow issues a warning to parents, much like movie ads are accompanied by
    parental ratings.

  • Ask Congress to require restaurant chains to include nutritional
    information on menus and mini-boards. There already is a bill pending in
    Congress to do this.

  • Empower the Agriculture Department to set standards for food sold in
    schools, primarily vending machines. The USDA currently regulates lunch menus,
    but there are no limits on what companies can sell kids through vending

Lieberman's campaign officials said the senator will not define what junk food is, leaving that to dietary and health care experts.
Lieberman’s call is yet another attack on commercial speech. Lieberman would not dare call for an FTC investigation of political speech, yet because the snack food advertisers speak out of a commercial motive, he believes he has a right to target them for investigation. This should send a chill up the spines of every business that relies of advertising to communicate with customers.

The fact is that parents are responsible for the cognitive development of their children, including a child’s eating choices and how they respond to advertising. If a child is making inappropriate decisions regarding his food options, the responsibility rests solely with the parent. Children receive different and conflicting messages from a variety of sources every day. It is for the parent to teach the child how to evaluate these messages and act appropriately.

The idea that the government can oversee advertising on the grounds that people are somehow powerless before it is obnoxious. People are responsible for their choices, not the government.

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