The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) and leading food companies created the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) to respond to the FTC’s and Institute of Medicine’s 2006 calls for greater self-regulation of food advertising to children as a means to address obesity. Launched in November 2006, the CFBAI aimed to shift the mix of advertising messaging directed at children to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthier lifestyles through the use of nutrition standards to guide such advertising.
On July 14, 2011, CFBAI announced a groundbreaking agreement in which its participants, who are responsible for the majority of food advertising to children under 12, pledged to use uniform nutrition criteria for foods advertised to children. The result of a year-long effort to improve further 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 the recipes for popular products.
Although the existing company-specific criteria have worked well to drive improvements in products advertised to children, the new uniform criteria have many advantages over the company-specific criteria. Now it doesn’t matter who makes the cereal, yogurt or soup, the products have to meet the same criteria for the relevant product category. The new criteria also are responsive to requests from the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, the FTC and others that CFBAI adopt uniform criteria.
The CFBAI and the participants accelerated the time table for completing the new criteria so that CFBAI could include them as part of its comment on a proposal developed by the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children. The CFBAI’s comment explains how the CFBAI’s criteria are tough, but realistic. In contrast the government’s proposal includes nutrition principles that are so extreme that they are unworkable. The government’s proposal also would apply to advertising to 12 to 17 year olds and would impact adult-directed advertising. For more information visit the CFBAI website
The successful development of uniform nutrition criteria is the latest in a series of significant program developments. These include a substantial expansion of its already rigorous and far-reaching requirements, harmonization of the definition of “child-directed” advertising, and a large increase in the number of participants. CFBAI continues to evolve and as an example of effective self-regulation, monitors important marketplace developments, creates and implements practical plans to respond to changing circumstances consistent with the CFBAI’s mission, and tracks performance to assess compliance.