Progress Continues in Food Advertising Self-Regulation Program

December 19, 2012

BBB’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative Reports Steady Improvements in Nutrition Content of Foods Advertised to Children

Arlington, VADecember 19, 2012 – The 16 companies in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) continue to honor their commitments to advertise children only products meeting meaningful nutrition criteria or not to engage in child-directed advertising. CFBAI, an advertising self-regulation program administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), released its “Report on Compliance and Progress in 2011” today. The report noted that extensive, independent monitoring found there was excellent compliance with the participants’ commitments.

“The program is working. Since 2006 when CFBAI was founded, more companies have joined, hundreds of foods have been improved or newly created to meet science-based nutrition criteria, and the CFBAI itself has expanded and become even more rigorous,” said Elaine D. Kolish, CFBAI director and vice president of CBBB.

The year 2011 is most notable for the CFBAI’s groundbreaking agreement with the program’s participants to use new category-specific uniform nutrition criteria. The new criteria are stronger overall than the current company-specific criteria, which individually do not necessarily set limits for calories and all of the nutrients in the CFBAI’s criteria (saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and total sugars) or include requirements for nutrition components to encourage (e.g., fruit, vegetables, whole grains, non/low-fat dairy) for all categories. Five participants have already adopted the uniform nutrition criteria in whole or in part in advance of the effective date of December 31, 2013.

While the CFBAI’s uniform nutrition criteria were being developed, the participants continued to introduce new foods or meals and improve others by refining their recipes to reduce fats, sodium or sugars, and increase positive nutrients. In particular a large variety of foods, including bread, cereals, crackers, pancakes and pasta, now include whole grains or a larger amount of whole grains than before.

CFBAI reports that a 2012 in-house review of ads in 31 hours of Nickelodeon programs found that the majority of the CFBAI participant ads were for foods containing fruit, vegetables, whole grains or non/low-fat dairy. This showed a steady upward trend from past analyses, from 48% of the foods advertised in the 2010 sample to 72% in the 2012 sample. The review also showed that food ads were only 23% of all of the ads, with ads for sedentary entertainment (video games, movies and show promos) more prevalent.

The CFBAI itself has changed with the times, expanding the scope of the program to cover new and emerging media, such as child-directed ads on smart phones and ads on children’s video games and DVDs. “In a comparatively short period of time, BBB created and implemented a comprehensive, meaningful program, and expanded it several times. As a result, we have a robust, voluntary program that results in steady and significant improvements in food advertised to children in the U.S., and that has served as a model for self regulation programs in over 40 countries,” said Kolish.


CFBAI’s “Report on Compliance and Progress in 2011” is available online. Elaine Kolish is available for media interviews on this topic.


For 100 years, Better Business Bureau has been helping consumers find businesses, brands and charities they can trust. In 2011, consumers turned to BBB more than 100 million times for Business Reviews on more than 4 million companies and Charity Reports on 11,000 charities, all available for free at The Council of Better Business Bureaus is the umbrella organization for 114 local, independent BBBs across the United States and Canada, as well as home to its national programs on dispute resolution and industry self-regulation.


The CFBAI was launched in November 2006 with the goal of shifting the mix of ads directed to children to include healthier products ─ those with fewer calories, less sodium, sugar and fats, and more nutrient dense. The CFBAI’s participants agree to use science-based nutrition standards to govern their advertising primarily directed to children under 12 (“child-directed advertising”) or not to engage in such advertising. The participants represent a substantial majority of child-directed food advertising on TV.

The CFBAI’s 16 participants are: Burger King Corp.; Campbell Soup Company; The Coca-Cola Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; The Dannon Company; General Mills Inc.; The Hershey Company; Hillshire Brands (formerly Sara Lee Corp.); Kellogg Company; Kraft Foods Global, Inc.; Mars, Incorporated; McDonald’s USA, LLC; Nestlé USA; PepsiCo, Inc.; Post Foods, LLC and Unilever United States. For more information about the CFBAI, visit