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Council of Better Business Bureaus Announces Groundbreaking Agreement on Child-Directed Food Advertising
July 14, 2011
Arlington, VA – The Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), a program of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, today announced a groundbreaking agreement that will change the landscape of what is advertised to kids by the nation’s largest food and beverage companies. For the first time, these food and beverage companies, who do the vast majority of advertising to children, will follow uniform nutrition criteria for foods advertised to children.

These uniform nutrition criteria, designed by CFBAI and top food industry scientists and nutritionists, will further strengthen voluntary efforts to change child-directed food advertising. Approximately one in three products currently advertised to kids do not meet the new nutrition criteria. While individual companies already have strong nutrition criteria for the products they advertise, the new uniform nutrition criteria will require many companies to change the recipes of these products or they will not be able to advertise them after December 31, 2013. The new criteria encourage the development of new products with less sodium, saturated fat and sugars, and fewer calories.

“These uniform nutrition criteria represent another huge step forward, further strengthening voluntary efforts to improve child-directed advertising. Now foods from different companies, such as cereals or canned pastas, will meet the same nutrition criteria, rather than similar but slightly different company-specific criteria. The new criteria are comprehensive, establishing limits for calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and total sugars as well as requirements for nutrition components to encourage,” said Elaine Kolish, Vice President and Director of the CFBAI.

The result of a year-long effort to further improve the nutrition composition of foods advertised to children, the new CFBAI criteria take into account food science, U.S. dietary guidelines, and the real-world difficulties of changing recipes of well-known foods. The new CFBAI uniform criteria fill gaps in the system of company-specific standards. They also recognize the inherent differences in food categories and their role in the diet, and set calorie and nutrient requirements that are appropriate for ten categories. Under the new CFBAI criteria, different foods such as cereals, peanut butter and dairy products have different nutrition criteria that are appropriate to each category.

“The food supply is a critical component to health and wellness. These criteria are meaningful, but practical, science-based standards that will further encourage healthier foods to be developed and advertised to children. Having criteria that are balanced for both nutritional significance and yet allows inclusion of foods that taste good and are affordable is critical because no matter how healthy a food is, if it’s not consumed it will not improve health and wellness. These criteria strike that balance,” said Dr. Eric Decker, Chair of the Department of Food Science, at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, and a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on School Foods.

The ten product categories are: juices; dairy products; grains, fruits and vegetable products; soups and meal sauces; seeds, nuts, nut butters and spreads; meat, fish and poultry products; mixed dishes; main dishes and entrees; small meals; and meals. Each category has its own set of criteria, such as:

  • Juices. For juices, no added sugars are permitted, and the serving must contain no more than 160 calories.

  • Dairy. This category includes products such as milk and yogurt. For ready to drink flavored milk, an 8 fluid ounce portion is limited to 24 grams (g) of total sugars. For yogurt products, a 6 ounce portion is limited to 170 calories and 23 grams of total sugars. These sugars criteria include both naturally-occurring and sugars added for flavoring.

  • Grains, fruits and vegetable products (and items not in other categories). This category includes products such as cereals, crackers and cereal bars. Foods with ≤ 150 calories, such as most children’s breakfast cereals, must contain no more than 1.5 g of saturated fat, 290 milligrams (mg) of sodium and 10 g of sugar (products with > 150−200 calories get proportionately higher limits). Foods in this category also must provide ≥ ½ serving of foods to encourage (fruits, vegetables, non- or low-fat dairy, and whole grains) or ≥ 10% of the Daily Value of an essential nutrient.

  • Seeds, nuts, nut butters and spreads. Foods in this category, which includes peanut butters, must have no more than 220 calories, 3.5 g of saturated fat, 240 mg of sodium and 4 g of sugar per 2 tablespoons. Foods in this category also must provide at least one ounce of protein equivalent.

  • Main dishes and entrees. Foods in this category, such as canned pastas, must have no more than 350 calories, 10 percent calories from saturated fat, 600 mg of sodium and 15 g of sugar per serving. Foods in this category also must provide either ≥ 1 serving of foods to encourage or ≥ ½ serving of foods to encourage and ≥ 10% of the Daily Value of two essential nutrients.
“The foods advertised during kid’s programming are better now than before. CFBAI participants have stepped up to the plate and changed what’s on it. As a result, the fat, sugar, sodium or calorie content of foods advertised to kids has been reduced, and their nutrient density increased. During the last several years, the CFBAI participants have changed the recipes of or created more than 100 products to meet their meaningful, science-based nutrition standards,” said Kolish.
Under the current company-specific criteria, a limit of 12 grams of added sugars was the general standard for children’s cereals. This represented a significant improvement from 16 or 15 grams of sugars in cereals advertised to children prior to the CFBAI. Now, under the CFBAI’s new uniform criteria, the limit for most children’s breakfast cereals is 10 grams of total sugars. Similarly, companies’ sodium standards for canned pastas ranged up to 750 mg. Now, 600 mg of sodium, the level FDA uses in its definition of “healthy” claims for main dishes, will be the maximum.

The Council of Better Business Bureaus created the CFBAI in 2006 to respond to the FTC’s and Institute of Medicine’s calls for greater self-regulation of food advertising to children. As a result, advertising primarily directed to children through traditional and emerging media today are for healthier products, and these new criteria will result in participants improving products even more.

For more details on the criteria, visit: http://www.bbb.org/us/children-food-beverage-advertising-initiative/.

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About the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative
The Council of Better Business Bureaus launched the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative in November 2006 to shift the mix of advertising messaging directed at children to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthier lifestyles. The 17 participants of the Initiative are Burger King Corp.; Cadbury Adams USA LLC; Campbell Soup Company; The Coca-Cola Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; The Dannon Company; General Mills, Inc.; The Hershey Company; Kellogg Company; Kraft Foods Global, Inc.; Mars, Incorporated; McDonald’s USA, LLC; Nestlé USA; PepsiCo, Inc.; Post Foods, LLC; Sara Lee Corporation and Unilever United States. For more information about the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative and to view the current pledges of the participants visit: http://www.bbb.org/us/children-foodbeverage-advertising-initiative