CFBAI Statement on "Trends in Television Food Advertising to Young People: 2015 Update"

August 05, 2016

The Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative’s voluntary standards have led to significant improvements in the mix of foods advertised to children under age 12. For this reason we disagree with the Rudd Center’s conclusion that such changes have not occurred.

First, it is important to note that Rudd’s criticism of CFBAI is based on an evaluation of ads that are not primarily directed to children. The report often erroneously characterizes ads on all media that kids may see as ads directed to them. Rather than focusing on ads in kid-directed media, the report includes carbonated beverage and candy ads that kids may see if they watch teen- or adult-directed programming, where children under age 12 are only 35% (or less) of the audience. CFBAI participants have not directed soda or candy advertising to children in many years. They are strongly committed to ensuring they comply with their CFBAI pledges and have done so.

Second, the mix of foods advertised to children has changed. Take, for example, the first- and second-most advertised food categories, fast food restaurants and cereals. Although Rudd characterizes these categories as “unhealthy,” the foods advertised to children by CFBAI participants are notably healthier since CFBAI’s launch. CFBAI quick serve participants’ ads feature meals that are under 600 calories and now always include milk or 100% fruit juice, and fruit or low fat yogurt. Cereals advertised by CFBAI participants have seen substantial reductions in their sugar content. Before the program started, some cereals had as much as 15 grams of sugar per serving. Now cereals advertised to children can have no more than 10 grams of sugar, and many have less. At the same time, their whole grain content has gone up. The nutritional quality and thus the mix of foods have improved.

CFBAI and its participants have worked steadily and successfully to change the mix of foods advertised to children and will continue to do so.

For more information contact Maureen Enright, Deputy Director, CFBAI at or (703) 247-9319.