Kraft Foods should modify television advertising for an Oscar Mayer Lunchables product to better depict a balanced meal, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has recommended.

The television ad at issue featured a child eating the peanut butter and jelly sandwich from his Lunchables meal. None of the additional meal contents – Dole Fruit and a Chocolate Drizzle Rice Treat – were pictured. In another scene in the commercial, other children in a cafeteria sat with their brown bag lunches in front of them with milk and orange juice drinks visible.

CARU expressed concern that the image of the boy eating his peanut butter and jelly sandwich failed to exemplify a “nutritionally balanced meal” as defined by the Self-Regulatory Program for Children’s Advertising. The USDA Dietary Guidelines require the depiction of a nutritionally balanced meal, which should include at least three of the five major food groups (e.g., fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, and whole grains).

Kraft argued that the image of the sandwich in combination with the shot of an overall cafeteria lunchroom scene with a “significant juice or milk presence” amounted to three of the five groups: bread in the sandwich satisfied the whole-grain requirement, peanut butter met the protein requirement, and milk fell into the milk product group. The commercial delivered the balanced meal message “in an informative and entertaining manner,” Kraft said.

CARU disagreed and said that the commercial was not in compliance with the Guidelines.

While the self-regulatory group “applauded” the inclusion of milk and juice in the cafeteria scenes, “the food depicted in these scenes is not the subject of the commercial,” CARU noted, and the “depiction of the advertised food product, specifically, the depiction of the boy eating just the Lunchables peanut butter and jelly sandwich without the additional fruit component, did not adequately depict a ‘nutritionally balanced meal.’”

CARU said it was unclear why Kraft would rely on the milk and juice images when the fruit included in the product itself would have constituted the third food group and satisfied CARU’s balanced-meal requirement. It recommended that the commercial “feature all of the components of the Lunchables [product] that are necessary to meet the Guidelines requirement for a balanced meal.”

To read CARU’s press release about the decision, click here.

Why it matters: “Advertising representing a mealtime should depict the food product within the framework of a nutritionally balanced meal,” CARU reminded advertisers. CARU was not persuaded by Kraft’s argument that CARU had reviewed storyboards for an earlier version of the commercial without comment. Noting that the ad was still in “the early stages of development and in storyboard format,” CARU said its approval was “limited to the specific version of the advertisement reviewed. CARU does not issue blanket approval for an entire campaign after reviewing one phase of the advertising campaign.”