Sara Lee joined the Children’s Food and Beverage Initiative launched by the Council of Better Business Bureaus and agreed to nutritional guidelines for foods marketed in media targeting children under the age of 12. The company said that it would market to children only food defined as “healthful” by the American Heart Association and will restrict the use of licensed characters in its ads.

The guidelines also prohibit the use of product placements in child-directed editorial or program content, the advertising of food or beverages in elementary schools, and the limiting of the use of food and beverages shown in interactive games primarily directed to children under 12.

Sara Lee is the seventeenth company to join the initiative, which launched in 2006, joining companies like Burger King, Campbell Soup, ConAgra, Dannon, General Mills, Kellogg, Kraft, McDonald’s, Nestle USA, PepsiCo, Post Foods, and Unilever U.S. Four other companies joined the initiative and pledged to stop all advertising to children under the age of 12: Coca-Cola, Hershey, Mars, and Cadbury Adams.

Each joining company prepares a pledge describing the specifics of its commitment, which must be approved by the initiative’s staff.

To learn more about the initiative or read the pledges made by the companies involved, click here.

Why it matters: Companies that market to children face increasing scrutiny, in part because of the Presidential Task Force focusing on childhood obesity and First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” campaign. And the Federal Trade Commission recently issued subpoenas to 48 food and beverage companies about their marketing to children and adolescents as the agency prepares a follow-up to its 2008 report, “Marketing Food to Children and Adolescents: A Review of Industry Expenditures, Activities and Self-Regulation.”