BBB: Self-Regulation Results In Remarkable Changes In Children's Food Ads

Arlington, Va. (BBB) — Five years ago, leading food and beverage companies made a major commitment to be a part of the solution to childhood obesity by agreeing to limit what foods they advertise to children under the age of 12. The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) launched the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) in November 2006 with ten charter companies.

Arlington, Va. (BBB) — Five years ago, leading food and beverage companies made a major commitment to be a part of the solution to childhood obesity by agreeing to limit what foods they advertise to children under the age of 12. The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) launched the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) in November 2006 with ten charter companies.

The CFBAI released its annual report today and provided a five-year retrospective on the changes in children’s food advertising and on the program expansions that have made this self-regulation program even more robust. The report noted there was excellent compliance with the participants’ commitments to advertise to children only products meeting meaningful nutrition criteria or not to engage in child-directed advertising. 

“Thanks to CFBAI’s participants, kids now see ads for a wide variety of healthier products, including cereals, crackers, yogurts, soups, snacks and meals, that have less sugar, sodium and fat, and are more nutritious,” said Elaine D. Kolish, CBBB Vice President and Director of CFBAI. “These days, children are regularly seeing ads for products that include, for example, whole grains.”

The CFBAI itself has changed with the times, expanding 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. Participation also has grown to 17 companies, which represent the vast majority of food and beverage advertising to children.

“The companies that participate in the CFBAI have made major changes in their business practices since the program was launched,” stated Kolish. “Under self regulation, they’ve significantly improved the products in child-directed ads in both traditional and new media, none are advertising to kids in elementary schools, and none are doing product placement in child-directed entertainment or editorial content.”

Its most significant advance in 2011, its fifth year, was the issuance of new CFBAI category-specific uniform nutrition criteria. “The new criteria build on what CFBAI’s participants already have accomplished ─ achieving product improvements without sacrificing taste, which any parent will tell you is more than half the battle,” said Kolish.

The new uniform nutrition criteria establish limits on calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugars for ten product categories, and include requirements for nutrition components to encourage, such as vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and essential vitamins and minerals. The new criteria require participants to improve many products they currently advertise to children ─ products that already meet meaningful nutrition standards ─ if they wish to continue advertising them after these criteria go into effect on December 31, 2013.

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