CFBAI Celebrates New Year with New Uniform Nutrition Criteria for Child-Directed Advertising

January 17, 2014

Stronger, uniform nutrition criteria went into effect on December 31, 2013 for companies participating in the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI). CFBAI’s participants now will use the category-specific uniform nutrition criteria, which were announced in July 2011, rather than their own company-specific criteria, to govern what foods are allowed in child-directed advertising (advertising primarily directed to children under age 12). CFBAI, an advertising self-regulation program administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), also recently published its Report on Compliance and Progress During 2012.

“The children’s food advertising landscape has changed greatly since CFBAI was launched in 2007,” said Elaine D. Kolish, CFBAI director and vice president of CBBB. “Some participants stopped engaging in child-directed advertising and the others have used meaningful company-specific nutrition criteria that have resulted in hundreds of recipe improvements and the development of new, healthier foods. The new uniform criteria have resulted in additional improvements in foods. While not every recipe for every food advertised to children in 2013 was able to be changed to meet the new criteria, those foods will not be advertised to children until they do.”

The new criteria are stronger overall than the previously-used company-specific criteria. All cereals, for example, with a standard one-ounce serving size will now contain no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving, along with whole grains and/or fiber or vitamins and minerals, such as calcium or vitamin D (all nutrients that are shortfalls in Americans’ diets). Previously, such cereals may have had up to 12 grams of sugar per serving, and before CFBAI started they may have contained 14-15 grams per serving. Many cereals already contain less than 10 grams of sugar per serving and, for more than half, whole grains are the first ingredient listed.

In July 2011, CFBAI had 223 foods (not counting each flavor of qualifying foods) on its list of foods meeting each participant’s individual nutrition standards and that the participants said they would or might advertise to children under age 12. CFBAI estimated then that about one-third of the foods on that list did not meet the newly-announced CFBAI uniform criteria. The list published today now contains 171 foods (not counting each flavor of qualifying foods, or exempt sugar-free gums that were not on the list in 2011). Today’s list is different from the July 2011 list because in December the participants removed foods from the list that do not meet the new criteria and added new qualifying foods. The current list also reflects the participants’ addition and removal of foods since July 2011 that have been noted in periodic updates to the list, last issued in October 2013. Many foods on today’s list were changed to meet the new criteria.

The following are examples of how some companies recently reduced calories, sugar or sodium in certain foods, or introduced new foods to meet the new criteria. 

  • General Mills reduced the sugar and calories in its Yoplait Go-Gurt yogurts by 10 and 14% respectively. 
  • Kellogg’s reduced the sugar in Frosted Flakes by 9% (from 11 to 10 grams per serving) to meet the new criteria (and removed four cereals on the October 2013 product list).
    • ConAgra Foods developed six new varieties of Chef Boyardee canned pastas that meet the new criteria (and removed some varieties on the October 2013 product list).

In advance of the December 31, 2013 effective date, seven participants had adopted the uniform nutrition criteria in whole or in part. This resulted in a number of improvements to foods, including:

  • A 25% reduction in sugar in Dannon’s Danimals Smoothie, a yogurt drink.
  • Reductions of 8% in sodium in five ConAgra Foods Chef Boyardee canned pastas.
  • Reductions of 28 and 52% in the sugar content in two ConAgra Foods Kid Cuisine frozen meals, and the addition of a new meal with 40% less sugar than a prior comparable meal.
  • Increases in the whole grain content of Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Grahams sold by the Campbell Soup Company and graham crackers sold by Mondelēz so that they now include 8 grams of whole grains per serving.

The recently-issued Report on Compliance and Progress During 2012 shows that CFBAI’s participants continued to honor their commitments to advertise to children only products meeting meaningful nutrition criteria or to not engage in child-directed advertising in 2012. The report noted that extensive, independent CFBAI-conducted monitoring found excellent compliance with the participants’ commitments. The report also noted the improvements made in foods during 2012 and 2013, and that an analysis of participant foods in ads that aired on Nickelodeon during July-August 2013 showed significant improvements since 2010. Specifically, 75% of the foods contained fruit, vegetables, whole grains or dairy ─ foods that should be consumed more frequently according to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This was a 56% increase from 2010. Additionally, 83% of the foods contained those foods groups and/or fiber and other nutrients that are shortfalls in American diets.

Since inception, CFBAI has grown from 10 to 18 participants and has expanded 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. CFBAI’s complete requirements can be found in the newly-published 4th edition of its Program and Core Principles Statement. Currently, five CFBAI participants (The Coca-Cola Company, Ferrero USA, The Hershey Company, Hillshire Brands Co. and Mars, Incorporated) have committed to not engage in child-directed advertising, and the other 13 use CFBAI’s new nutrition criteria (companies also may use any nutrition criterion that exceeds CFBAI’s requirements).

About the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative

BBB launched the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative in 2007 to shift the mix of advertising messaging directed at children to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthier lifestyles. The CFBAI’s 18 participants are Burger King Corporation; Campbell Soup Company; The Coca-Cola Company; ConAgra Foods, Inc.; The Dannon Company, Inc.; Ferrero USA, Inc.; General Mills Inc.; The Hershey Company; Hillshire Brands Company; Kellogg Company; Kraft Foods Group, Inc.; Mars, Incorporated; McDonald’s USA, LLC; Mondelēz Global LLC; Nestlé USA; PepsiCo, Inc.; Post Foods, LLC and Unilever United States. For more information about CFBAI, visit

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