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BBB Reports on Progress of Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative at FTC Forum


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Washington, DC – December 15, 2009 - Highlighting the progress of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, director Elaine Kolish spoke before the FTC today at its forum on “Sizing up Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity” on the effectiveness of self-regulation of food and beverage advertising directed to children under the age of 12. Additionally, Kolish announced the Initiative’s Core Principles have been revised and will now include advertising primarily directed to children in more venues.

“Because of the work of 16 major food and beverage producers, advertising to kids under 12 is increasingly for products that are lower in fats, calories, sugar and sodium and include more of the vitamins, fiber and other positive nutrients that kids need,” said Kolish, Vice President of the Council of Better Business Bureaus and Director of the Initiative. “The substantial progress made by the Initiative shows that self-regulation can work when companies’ voluntary commitments to change are matched with fair, unbiased, third-party oversight.”

Created in 2006 by the Council of Better Business Bureaus and 10 food and beverage companies, the Initiative has now grown to include 16 major food and beverage producers. The goal of the Initiative is to shift the advertising of food and beverages to kids to include increasingly healthier products and messaging. Four of the participating companies have committed to not advertise to children at all and the other 12 participants have pledged to only advertise products to children that meet nutritional standards derived from authoritative and science-based nutrition guidelines such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Since the creation of the Initiative, participants have increasingly promoted healthier food and beverage options to kids. As Kolish noted in her presentation:

  • The sugar content of cereals advertised to kids has been reduced from as much as 16 grams of sugar to the point where now almost two-thirds have 11 grams or less.
  • The sodium content of many soups and canned pastas that are advertised on kids programming has been reduced by 20 and 30 percent.
  • Fast food restaurants advertise healthier choices with their kids’ meals including fresh apple slices or low-fat or skim milk.
    o 83 percent of participants’ ads were for foods and beverages that provided at least a good source of a nutrient shortfall for children—including calcium and fiber—or a food group to be encouraged, as evident in a 2009 sample of ads on kids programming.
  • Many millions of dollars have gone toward reformulation and creation of more than a hundred products so they meet nutrition standards.

Kolish also announced changes to the Initiative’s Enhanced Core Principles. The Enhanced Core Principles now require participants to commit that 100 percent of their advertising primarily directed to children under 12 will be for healthier dietary choices or better-for-you products. While the option of satisfying the commitment through healthy lifestyle messaging or some combination of better-for-you product and healthy lifestyle messaging has been eliminated, the participants will continue to support and promote healthy lifestyles. 

Additionally, consistent with the program’s focus on child-directed advertising, the venues and types of marketing covered by the Core Principles have been expanded to include video and computer games rated EC or Early Childhood, other video games that are age-graded on the label as being primarily child-directed, and cell phone marketing that is primarily directed to children under 12. Word-of-mouth advertising that is primarily directed to children under 12 also will be covered. All of the changes go into effect on January 1, 2010.  The enhanced Core Principles are available at http://www.bbb.org/us/Enhanced-Core-Principles.

“The bottom line is that industry self-regulation is working and, because of the Initiative, substantial advances have been achieved in improving the nutrient content of foods and beverages advertised to kids,” added Kolish.

To view Kolish’s presentation made at the FTC forum today visit: http://www.bbb.org/us/FTC-Presentation-Slides

For more information or to schedule an interview with Elaine Kolish, BBB vice president and director of the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, contact Alison Southwick at 703-247-9376.

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 16 participants of the CFBAI 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 Snackfoods US, LLC; McDonald’s USA, LLC; Nestlé USA; PepsiCo, Inc.; Post Foods, LLC; and Unilever United States. For more information about the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative and to view the pledges of the participants visit: http://www.bbb.org/us/children-food-beverage-advertising-initiative.
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