WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
July 18, 2007 -- Eleven U.S. corporations formally agreed Wednesday to
reduce or stop marketing unhealthy foods to children in an effort to help curb
The companies, representing some of the largest food and beverage
manufacturers in the U.S., said they would curtail advertising of high-calorie,
high-sugar food to children under 12. Most pledged to sell only healthier items
to kids and said they would stop marketing foods in elementary schools.
The pledges were delivered through the Council of Better Business Bureaus at
a forum on childhood obesity held by the Federal Trade Commission and the
Department of Health and Human Services in Washington.
Elaine Kolish, director of the Council of Better Business Bureaus' childhood
advertising initiative, said the commitments would "improve the mix" of
foods advertised to children under 12 and cut the number of food ads placed by
"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," she said in
Several companies, including Kellogg Co., had already announced plans to
scale back or eliminate marketing of high-sugar or high-fat food to younger
children. That announcement helped stave off a threatened lawsuit from the
consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Margo Wootan, the group's head of nutrition policy, praised the agreements
despite the earlier threat of litigation. She called Wednesday's pledges "a
great step in the right direction."
"They got here and that's what matters to kids and parents," Wootan
As part of the agreement, Hershey Co. and Coca-Cola Co. pledged to eliminate
all advertising directed at children under 12. McDonald's Corp. said it would
limit marketing to children under 12 to foods meeting limited calorie, fat, and
Kraft Foods Inc., PepsiCo Inc., and cereal maker General Mills Inc. also
said they would apply government-based nutrition standards to all foods
targeted to children.
"We will keep encouraging children, through our advertising, to make
better choices and to be active," Lance Friedman, Kraft's senior vice
president, said in a statement.
Other companies in the agreement include Cadbury Adams USA, Campbell Soup
Co., Mars Inc. and Unilever United States.
Coca-Cola said it would continue to market Gatorade sports drinks in schools
but limit its marketing to advertising tied to physical activity. Wootan said
she was disappointed that the drinks -- "sugar water with added salt"
-- were not included in the company's announcement.
"I think sports drinks are one of the big problems here," she
Products affected by Wednesday's pledges number in the thousands, and it is
unclear how each company's nutrition standards will affect the actual content
of food it sells to children.
Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who has sponsored legislation cracking down on
child-directed food marketing, said he is "reserving judgment" on the
nutritional content of food that is still sold to kids after each of the plans
"It is equally important that they are faithfully implemented and
enforced," he told reporters.
SOURCES: Council of Better Business Bureaus Children's Food and Beverage
Advertising Initiative, July 18, 2007. Elaine D. Kolish, director, Council of
Better Business Bureaus Children's Food and Beverage Advertising. Margo Wootan,
director of nutrition policy, Center for Science in the Public Interest. Lance
Friedman, senior vice president, Kraft Foods. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.
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