Federal pressure prompts changes in advertising efforts

by Keith Nunes
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ARLINGTON, VA. — Faced with potential federal regulatory action, such as a ban on advertising food and beverage products to children under 12, 11 of the largest food companies, working through the Council of Better Business Bureaus (C.B.B.B.), stepped up their efforts to limit food and beverage advertising efforts targeted toward children to products that meet specific nutritional guidelines. The effort comes at a time when the Federal Trade Commission is considering what, if any, action to take to limit the amount of advertising targeting children.

The companies involved include Cadbury Adams USA, L.L.C.; Campbell Soup Co.; The Coca-Cola Co.; General Mills, Inc.; The Hershey Co.; The Kellogg Co.; Kraft Foods Inc.; Mars, Inc.; McDonald’s USA L.L.C.; PepsiCo., Inc.; and Unilever U.S. Combined, the 11 companies accounted for approximately two-thirds of the children’s food and beverage television advertising expenditures in 2004.

"These companies have pledged to focus essentially all of their advertising primarily directed to children under 12 on products meeting better-for-you standards or refrain from advertising to that age group," said Steven J. Cole, president and chief executive officer of the C.B.B.B. "In addition, all participants will take the unprecedented step of voluntarily opening their commitments to the Better Business Bureau’s (B.B.B.) independent compliance monitoring and reporting."

Examples of the efforts food companies plan to implement include Kraft Foods’ pledge to only advertise food and beverage products that meet the company’s Sensible Solution nutrition criteria, and McDonald’s USA’s commitment to only advertise meals that meet specified calorie, fat, saturated fat and sugar limits on programming that targets children under 12. General Mills pledged to stop advertising foods containing more than 12 grams of sugar per serving to children under 12 and will add nutrition highlights to the front panel of cereals in the United States designating the per cent daily values of calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar.

"We pioneered this self-regulatory approach in 2005 and were the first food company in the United States to use better-for-you nutrition criteria to determine which products we advertise to children," said Lance Friedmann, senior vice-president of health, wellness and sustainability for Kraft Foods. "We are encouraged that others within the industry are initiating similar practices, and we welcome the transparency and third-party oversight that the C.B.B.B. initiative brings to the process."

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