Tougher standards for junk food advertising may be on the way in New York State.
Members of the state Senate agriculture committee recently passed S.7487B, 6-3, with state Sen. George Borrello, R-Sunset Bay, voting against. Borrello said the intent of the bill was valid, but questioned a clause allowing anyone who believes they have suffered damages to be permitted to sue in state or federal court.
“I understand the intent of this and appreciate the intent of this one,” said Borello. “My concern is that this includes a private right of action that I’m just not a fan of. I think it’s kind of an under-the-radar giveaway for special interests to do that.
S.7487 is sponsored by Senator Zellnor Myrie, D-Brooklyn. It would amend the State Farm and Markets Act to require that claims made in an advertisement, failure to disclose material facts and the target of an advertisement all be considered in determining whether an advertisement is false or misleading. In addition, it pays particular attention when the target audience of an advertisement is children.
The state Department of Agriculture and Markets and the state Department of Health would be required to produce a report to the state Legislature indicating which foods are bad for children according to nutritional standards. generally accepted. Myrie’s proposal also gives regulators additional authority to target specific food industries such as ultra-processed foods for implementing a childhood obesity prevention program.
“I take note of your point of view, Senator Borrello, on the private right of action”, said Myria. “But it’s not just in this bill, but used in several others as a motivator for people to do the right thing. Hopefully it doesn’t have to come to a dispute. That is my goal with this bill. And I also want to say that, generally speaking, the intent of this bill to prevent corporations that spend billions of dollars from targeting our children with unhealthy food and overconsumption is one that I think that we all agree. I think that’s just the destination – how do you get there?
The accompanying legislation (A.8583) was not withdrawn from the Assembly Agriculture Committee this session. Myrie said the New York Farm Bureau has raised concerns about some New York-produced items being labeled as unhealthy. Myrie said her intention is to open up markets and opportunities for state farms so children eat healthier foods produced by state farms rather than the items they see on TV advertising.
Borrello said he’d also like to see the state address another advertising truth involving the dairy industry, which is what is and isn’t considered milk.
“I’ll also make a comment that has nothing to do with your bill, but talks about truth in advertising, which is what you’re talking about here,” said Borello. “I would love for us to have the power here in New York State to eliminate calling things like almond milk actually milk instead of things that come from a mammal. By the way, I wish it was within our power, I know it’s a federal power, but it’s certainly an advertising truth as far as I’m concerned.
Committee members also passed S.8973, which would allow a dog that is not dangerous to be returned to the owner on the dog’s license. Current state law requires that stray dogs be taken to the local animal shelter. A valid license would be required for the dogs to be returned to their owner. Unlicensed animals would still be taken to the nearest shelter.
“It was surprising to me that it wasn’t the law to begin with,” said Rep. Michelle Hinchey, D-Kingston. “I’m really happy that we’re able to do this now. If a dog is found or if you lose your dog and someone finds it, it must now be turned over to a shelter, not the owner. So obviously we want to make this as easy as possible for people to find their beloved pet.