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Better Business Bureau Announces Food and Beverage Advertising Commitments from 11 Industry Leaders


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The Council of Better Business Bureaus today announced 11 pledges approved under the CBBB’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. The pledges were announced at “Weighing In: A Check-Up on Marketing, Self-Regulation, and Childhood Obesity,” a joint forum hosted by the Federal Trade Commission and Department of Health and Human Services.

The Initiative has approved pledges for Cadbury Adams, USA, LLC; Campbell Soup Company, The Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, Inc.; The Hershey Company, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods Inc., Mars, Inc.; McDonald’s USA, LLC, PepsiCo, Inc. and Unilever. These companies accounted for an estimated two-thirds of children’s food and beverage television advertising expenditures in 2004.

“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. “Today’s commitments respond directly to that challenge.”

“These companies have pledged to focus essentially all of their advertising primarily directed to children under 12 on products meeting better-for-you standards or refrain from advertising to that age group,” Mr. Cole said. “These expansive commitments significantly exceed the Initiative’s baseline requirements. In addition, all participants will take the unprecedented step of voluntarily opening their commitments to the BBB’s independent compliance monitoring and reporting.”

Elaine D. Kolish, Director of the BBB’s Initiative, spoke today at the FTC/HHS forum.

“Collectively these pledges will improve the mix of foods advertised to children under 12 and reduce the number of food advertisements run by participating companies,” said Ms. Kolish. “For example, these commitments effectively limit participating companies’ advertising of snack foods and other food products to those that meet new or existing better-for-you nutrition criteria, and limit the advertising of cereals to those with 12 or fewer grams of sugar per serving.”

Under the baseline requirements of the Initiative, announced in November 2006, participants agreed to devote at least half of their advertising primarily directed to children under 12 to promoting healthier dietary choices or healthy lifestyles. Company commitments based on better-for-you dietary choices are required to be consistent with established scientific and/or government standards. The BBB will monitor and publicly report on the companies’ compliance with their pledges.

Pledge highlights:


  • Coca-Cola Co., through its pledge, is now publicly committing to continue its long-standing practice in the U.S. of refraining from advertising its beverages on programming primarily directed to children under 12.

  • Kraft advertises to children only beverages meeting its Sensible Solution criteria, based on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and authoritative statements from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the National Academy of Sciences, and other public health authorities. These criteria contain, by product category, calorie and nutrient requirements and restrictions.

  • PepsiCo’s advertising will, by January 2008, be only for products that meet the company’s existing Smart Spot nutrition criteria, which are based on authoritative statements from the FDA and the National Academy of Sciences or provide other functional benefits based on consensus science. Under the terms of its pledge, the only products PepsiCo will advertise to children under 12 are Baked Cheetos, a reduced-fat snack, and Gatorade. It will advertise Gatorade only in association with the promotion of children engaging in sports or other vigorous activity.


  • General Mills, Inc.’s pledge provides that any product advertised to children under 12 must meet or exceed its nutrition guidelines for Health Dietary Choices, which are based on FDA standards for healthy foods, and the U.S. Dietary Guideline recommendations regarding foods targeted for increased consumption, and include limits on calories, fat, sodium and trans fat. In addition, General Mills will no longer advertise to children foods containing more than 12 grams of sugar per serving. All products will meet these requirements by the end of 2008, or they will no longer be advertised to children under 12.
  • Kellogg Co.’s pledge reflects nutritional standards, announced in June, that include limits on calories, fat and sodium, as well as a 12 gram-per-serving sugar limitation, that are derived from FDA and Institute of Medicine (IOM) standards. The application of the company’s nutrient criteria affects nearly 50 percent of Kellogg’s products, including cereals, currently marketed to children worldwide. By the end of 2008, the company will either reformulate products to meet its criteria or it will stop advertising them to children 6-11.
  • Kraft (Post Cereals) advertises only cereals that meet its Sensible Solution criteria. All of the cereals that it advertises to children have less than 12 grams of sugar and include either whole grains or a good source of fiber.

Other Foods

  • Kraft advertises only products to children that meet its Sensible Solution nutrition criteria and will continue this policy under its pledge.

  • Campbell Soup Company has committed to having all of its advertising primarily directed to children under 12 be for better-for-you foods, such as lower-sodium soups and other products consistent with U.S. Dietary Guideline recommendations.

  • Unilever has adopted a new Eat Smart/Drink Smart Logo program that is based on U.S. Dietary Guidelines and International Dietary Guidelines. As of June, only products that qualify for the Logo are included in advertising that is primarily directed to children ages 6-12. Currently, the only Unilever brands that are featured in advertising primarily directed to children ages 6-12 are Skippy Peanut Butter (via Web advertising) and Popsicle products that meet the Logo criteria for sugar content and contain less than 100 calories.

Quick Serve Restaurant Food

  • McDonald’s USA has committed that all advertising primarily directed to children under 12 will be for meals that meet specified calorie, fat, saturated fat and sugar limitations consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 and other government standards. Advertising will feature the 375 calorie Happy Meal consisting of four chicken McNuggets made with white meat, apple slices, low-fat caramel dip and one-percent low-fat white milk.

Snacks and Traditional Candy

  • Cadbury Adams, USA, LLC. By March 2008, Cadbury Adams USA will either no longer advertise Bubblicious to children under 12, or will devote at least 50 percent of such advertising to a product that offers a healthier dietary option under the Initiative’s healthier food criteria. Currently, Bubblicious is the only product the company advertises to children under 12.

  • Hershey Co. has committed to its policy, implemented last January, of not advertising in media primarily directed to children under 12.

  • Kraft advertises only products to children that meet its Sensible Solution nutrition criteria and will continue this policy under its pledge.

  • Mars, Inc.’s pledge reflects its global policy, announced by the company in February, that it will stop advertising its traditional candy and snack products to children under 12. Under this pledge, advertising primarily directed to children under 12 has ceased in the U.S. for these products. The nutrition standards Mars uses for its line of better-for you-snack products are designed to be consistent with the U.S. Dietary Guidelines and fortified with nutrients that IOM has identified as nutritional shortfalls in children’s diets.

  • Six other participants that also sell snack foods (Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, PepsiCo and Unilever) will advertise only those snack foods that meet their better-for-you criteria that are consistent with established scientific and/or government standards.

Use of Third-Party Licensed Characters

  • Each participating company that is continuing to advertise to children has agreed to restrict advertising using third-party licensed characters to products that meet better-for-you criteria, and to Web sites promoting healthy lifestyles. One company, Mars, has pledged not to use third-party licensed characters in any of its advertising primarily directed to children under 12. General Mills has announced that it will use licensed characters on packaging for a new line of frozen vegetable products. Kellogg’s limitations on the use of licensed characters include packaging as well as advertising.

Elementary Schools/Product Placement

  • All of the participants have committed to refrain from advertising in elementary schools and from product placement in movies or other editorial content primarily directed to children under 12.

“Several companies already have implemented the internal nutrition guidelines and standards reflected in their pledges. All companies will implement their pledges by the end of 2008” said C. Lee Peeler, CBBB Executive Vice President, National Advertising, and President and CEO, National Advertising Review Council.

“The goal of the initiative is to engage as many advertisers as possible to make a significant, collective impact in shifting the mix of products advertised to children. Today’s announcement represents a beginning, not an end,” said Mr. Peeler. “The market for healthier products is increasingly competitive and we are seeing more and more companies move to reformulate or create new products in response to growing consumer demand. We expect to see these commitments continue to evolve as we gain experience with the program, and we hope the number of participating companies will increase.”

The full text of each company pledge and information about the Initiative’s standards are available at the BBB Web site, www.BBB.org. Questions from the public about the pledges can be sent to kidsinitiative@cbbb.bbb.org.


About the BBB System
BBB is an unbiased organization that sets and upholds high standards for fair and honest business behavior. Businesses that earn BBB membership contractually agree and adhere to the organization’s high standards of ethical business behavior. BBB provides objective advice, free business Reliability Reports and charity Wise Giving Reports, and educational information on topics affecting marketplace trust. To further promote trust, BBB also offers complaint and dispute resolution support for consumers and businesses when there is difference in viewpoints. The first BBB was founded in 1912. Today, 128 BBBs serve communities across the U.S. and Canada, evaluating and monitoring more than 3 million local and national businesses and charities. Please visit www.bbb.org for more information about the BBB System.

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