December 1, 2006
Meeting the Challenge of Change
Elsewhere in this month’s Snack Food Association section, you’ll find an article entitled “Congressional Outlook: From Offense to Defense,” which discusses some of the implications of the Nov. 7 Congressional elections and the potential challenges for the snack food industry in the coming year.
In that article, SFA president and CEO Jim McCarthy and SFA government affairs consultant Mike Torrey analyze some of the implications of the switch in power from Republican to Democrat on Capitol Hill and discuss how those changes will affect what legislation will be considered and what approaches might be taken by our lawmakers.
As McCarthy pointed out, “Change is constant in Washington, and we will adapt.” Fortunately, the SFA is well-positioned with friends and supporters in D.C. on both sides of the aisle.
In the “Outlook” article, it’s pointed out that while Democrats gained the majority, many of those new members are pro-business and pro-economic growth. In my view, we will see those principles tested fairly quickly.
I am concerned, with today’s justifiable emphasis on obesity and nutrition, that Congress might be tempted to act hastily and over-simplify its approach by deciding which foods are “good” and which foods are “bad” for Americans to consume.
That could happen as a new Farm Bill is developed. The Farm Bill authorizes such initiatives as the Food Stamps program. It would be a mistake to restrict, by law, which foods people can consume and which foods they cannot. There are some legislators pushing these restrictions, and I can tell you that the SFA is working hard behind the scenes to prevent it from happening.
There also is considerable attention being given to the issue of advertising aimed at children, and that can be expected to intensify in the new Congress. Our industry has taken a responsible approach to this issue and supports voluntary industry guidelines. I do not believe this is an area that needs restrictive laws or regulations.
I’m told that “The Cheeseburger Bill,” legislation that would limit lawsuits by consumers who want to blame fast food restaurants and other companies for their own obesity, doesn’t have much of a chance in this new Congress. I hope this bill is passed, but we will watch it closely.
All of this is to say that the SFA stands ready and able to work with our new leadership in Congress and help our new lawmakers understand the implications of these decisions.
Snack food companies all across the nation provide wholesome, safe and enjoyable products for our consumers. We care about health, and we care about safety. And we operate our facilities with those concerns uppermost in our minds.
We also believe that Americans should have the freedom to choose what foods they want to enjoy on whatever occasion. We understand the need to eat responsibly. We also encourage exercise as an important part of the equation.
I look forward to the new year ahead. I know we will have some challenges as we deal with these changes in Washington, but I also know that the SFA is well-prepared.
Meanwhile, please accept my best wishes for a great holiday season and a healthy and prosperous 2007.