The Council of Better Business Bureaus’ Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative has announced new uniform criteria designed to further strengthen the efforts to self-regulate child-directed food advertising.
The 17-member CFBAI – which includes companies such as McDonald’s Corp., Sara Lee, and Unilever – helped develop the criteria over a year-long process, with the aid of top food industry scientists and nutritionists who took into account U.S. dietary guidelines.
The criteria apply to ten product categories: juices; dairy products; grain, fruits and vegetable products; soups and meal sauces; seeds, nuts, nut butters and spreads; meat, fish, and poultry products; mixed dishes; main dishes and entrees; small meals; and meals. Previously, each company developed its own standards for products.
Each category has its own set of criteria. For example, juices cannot have any added sugars and must contain no more than 160 calories, while foods in the seeds, nuts, nut butters, and spreads category (such as peanut butter) cannot have more than 200 calories, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 240 milligrams of sodium, and 4 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons.
The new criteria encourage the development of new products with less sodium, saturated fat and sugars, and fewer calories, the CFBAI said.
“These uniform nutrition criteria represent another huge step forward, further strengthening voluntary efforts to improve child-directed advertising,” Elaine Kolish, Vice President and Director of the CFBAI, said in a statement. “Now foods from different companies, such as cereals or canned pastas, will meet the same nutrition criteria, rather than similar but slightly different company-specific criteria.”
Federal Trade Commission Chairman Jon Leibowitz also praised the CFBAI’s new criteria. “The industry’s uniform standards are a significant advance and exactly the type of initiative the commission had in mind when we started pushing for self-regulation more than five years ago,” he said in a statement to The New York Times.
To read the category-specific uniform nutrition criteria, click here.
Why it matters: The new nutrition criteria will present major changes for some of the member companies, which account for more than 70 percent of all food ads targeting children. The CFBAI has estimated that one in three products currently advertised to kids does not meet the new standards. Many companies will either have to change their recipes or drop their child-focused advertising when the new criteria take effect on December 31, 2013. The industry’s efforts are seen as an attempt to stave off federal regulation after the Interagency Working Group (“IWG”), which includes the FTC, proposed stricter nutritional criteria in April 2011. The IWG, which has sought public comments on its proposed criteria, plans to submit a final recommendation to Congress by the end of the year.