Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Major Food and Beverage Firms Agree to Limit Advertising to Children

Eleven major food and beverage firms have pledged to limit their advertising to children in several different ways, under the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a self-regulatory program sponsored by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

The pledges were announced on July 18, during a forum on childhood obesity, hosted jointly by the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The 11 firms, accounting for an estimated two-thirds of children’s food and beverage television advertising expenditures in 2004, have agreed to (1) limit their advertising on programming directed to children under the age of 12, (2) focus children’s advertising on healthier foods and beverages, (3) direct their advertising of particular products to those over the age of 12, (4) restrict the use of third-party licensed characters to more healthy products and to websites that promote healthy lifestyles, (5) refrain from advertising in elementary schools, and (6) refrain from product placement in movies and content primarily directed to children under 12.

Pledges were made by Cadbury Adams, USA, LLC; Campbell Soup Co.; The Coca-Cola Co.; General Mills, Inc.; The Hershey Co.; Kellogg Co.; Kraft Foods, Inc.; Mars, Inc.; McDonald’s USA, LLC; PepsiCo, Inc.; and Unilever United States.

“In 2005, FTC Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras and HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt challenged the advertising industry to review and strengthen industry self-regulation of children’s food advertising in light of the growing concern about childhood obesity in our nation,” said Steven J. Cole, President and CEO of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “These expansive commitments respond directly to that challenge.”

The pledges will improve the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 and will reduce the number of food advertisements by these firms, according to Elaine D. Kolish, director of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative.

The CBBB says it will monitor and publicly report on the firms’ compliance with their pledges.

Highlights of the pledges include:

Coca-Cola Co.: The soft drink giant committed to continue its practice in the U.S. of refraining from advertising its beverages on programming primarily direct to children under 12.

PepsiCo: By January 2008, the firm will restrict its advertising to products that meet its “Smart Sport” nutritional criteria, which are based on statements by the Food and Drug Administration, the National Academy of Sciences, and other public health authorities.

McDonald’s USA: Advertising primarily directed to children under 12 will be limited to meals that meet specified calorie, fat, saturated fat, and sugar limitations consistent with government standards.

Hershey Co.: The candy maker will refrain from advertising in media primarily directed to children under 12.

Mars, Inc.: The company announced a global policy of not advertising its traditional candy and snack products to children under 12.

Kraft: Ads for beverages, cereals, and snacks will be limited to those meeting the company’s “Sensible Solution” criteria.

Details of the announcement appear here on the Better Business Bureau website. Further information about advertising to children is available in the CCH Advertising Law Guide and Do's and Don'ts in Advertising.

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