FDA Budget Hearing Turns from Money Talk to MTV’s ‘Skins’ and Valentine’s Day Dinners

By Kristina

Mar 11, 2011 1:51pm

ABC News’ Arlette Saenz:

In the future, your children might not see commercials for chocolate milk, graham crackers, and Cheerios during breaks from their favorite television shows, prompting a House subcommittee chairman to take issue with some proposed guidelines regulating the marketing of food to children.

“I’m concerned about the potential overreach based on these guidelines that are sitting on the table right now,” Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Georgia, said at a hearing on Capitol Hill today.  “The food that would not be allowed to be advertised on television shows in which 50% of the audience is children could include peanut butter sandwiches, eggs, granola bars, noodles, chocolate milk, pretzels, cheerios, bread, graham crackers and cheese.”

At a hearing mainly focused on the FDA’s budget, Kingston took a moment to go after the “Nanny State,” pointing to the disparity in banning television advertisements for certain foods while still airing controversial shows like MTV’s “Skins,” a show he described as a “soft porn titillating type show,” which he claims to have never watched but channel surfed through.

“What does the ‘Nanny State’ want?” Kingston asked.  “Look at a review of the show skins and think, we’re saying fine you can watch it  - freedom of speech, parental control. I’m not here knocking ‘Skins,’ but I’m saying it’s ironic that you can watch ‘Skins,’ but Cheerios can’t be advertised on it because that might really hurt our teenagers, not the fact that they’re all running around in skimpy little clothes doing naughty little things. 

And Kingston said he won’t let requirements to display food content on menus ruin a romantic dinner with his wife.

“I know you want it so that when I take my wife out for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, we have to read through the content of the food before we can order our fish and steak but – and I’m not going to let you steal my romantic evening from it, but I’ve got to say I don’t know where the ‘Nanny State’s’ planning to stop.  It’s just one thing after the other that you want to control.”

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg testified before a House Appropriations subcommittee to defend the 30% increase in the FDA’s budget proposed in the President’s FY 2012 budget, saying it will provide support to an “underfunded” and “under resourced” department.

“FDA’s charged with an enormous and unique set of tasks,” Hamburg said.  “If we do not do our job and do it completely, there is no other agency or entity out there to backstop us.  That’s why I am here to ask for your support of the Fiscal Year 2012 budget for the FDA.”

The President’s budget request would raise the FDA’s budget to over $4.3 billion.  The President also requested $183 million to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act, which, Hamburg argued, the FDA would be severely hampered in implementing should Congress not appropriate the funds. 

“If we don’t get the money, we will not be able to fulfill all of the requirements of the act without a doubt.  We will importantly not be able to fulfill the very ambitious inspection mandate, domestically and internationally, which will mean we won’t be able to get that hands on look.”

Committee members dissected the department’s handling of certain food and drug safety areas, ranging from the pervasive abuse of Oxycodone to the outsourcing of ingredient production for drugs such as Heparin to other countries.

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