Advocacy groups and parents applaud efforts, drop plans to sue
Kellogg Company will adopt nutrition standards for the foods it advertises to young children, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), and two Massachusetts parents will not proceed with a lawsuit against the company.
Foods advertised on media—including TV, radio, print, and third-party Web sites—that have an audience of 50 percent or more children under age 12 will have to meet Kellogg’s new nutrition standards, which require that one serving of the food has:
• No more than 200 calories
• No more than zero grams of trans fat and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat
• No more than 230 milligrams of sodium (except for Eggo frozen waffles)
• No more than 12 grams of sugar (excluding sugar from fruit, dairy, and vegetables). Kellogg will continue its practice of not advertising to children under 6.
In addition, Kellogg will not:
• Advertise to children any foods in schools and preschools that include kids under age 12;
• Sponsor product placements for any products in any medium primarily directed at kids under 12;
• Use licensed characters on mass-media advertising directed primarily to kids under 12, as a basis for a food form or on the front labels of food packages unless those foods meet the nutrition standards.
• Use branded toys in connection with foods that do not meet the nutrition standards.
“We are pleased to work collaboratively with industry and advocacy groups to unveil these standards,” said David Mackay, president and chief executive officer, Kellogg Company. “We feel the Kellogg Nutrient Criteria set a new standard for responsibility in the industry.”
“By committing to these nutrition standards and marketing reforms, Kellogg has vaulted over the rest of the food industry,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson. “As a practical matter, this commitment means that parents will find it a little easier to steer their children toward healthy food choices—especially if other food manufacturers and broadcasters follow Kellogg’s lead.”
Products that don’t meet the criteria will either be reformulated to meet the Nutrient Criteria or they will no longer be marketed to children under 12 by the end of 2008. The nutrition standard will guide targeted future innovation and product development. Over time, Kellogg will work toward providing consumers even more product choices with enhanced nutritional value.
“This agreement represents a significant step toward reducing marketing to children,” said Susan Linn, co-founder of the CCFC. “CCFC is particularly pleased that Kellogg will end in-school advertising to children under 12 and restrict its use of licensed media characters. It’s our hope that other companies will follow suit.”
In January 2006, CSPI, CCFC, and two Massachusetts parents, Sherri Carlson and Andrew Leong, announced their intent to sue Kellogg and Viacom, parent company of the Nickelodeon children’s television network. Six weeks before the planned lawsuit was announced, the prestigious Institute of Medicine had released a landmark report that found that the mix of foods advertised to kids is “at best, a missed opportunity, and, at worst, a direct threat to the health of the next generation.” Viacom is not a party to today’s announcement.
“We’re pleased that we were able to work collaboratively with Kellogg and that litigation proved not to be necessary,” said CSPI litigation director Steve Gardner, who along with Steve Skalet of the Washington, D.C., law firm of Mehri and Skalet, PLLC, negotiated for the prospective plaintiffs.
Last November the Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB), the parent group of the industry-funded Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), announced an initiative developed by 10 large food companies, including Kellogg, to shift their advertising toward healthier choices. The nutrition standards and marketing reforms in Kellogg’s commitment will also form the basis for its pledge to that initiative.
“This important agreement represents a rising tide that should lift all boats,” said Jacobson. “I hope other companies adopt commitments that are at least equal to what Kellogg is announcing today.”
“We have further strengthened our global commitment to meeting consumers’ health and nutrition needs,” said Mackay. “This initiative builds on Kellogg’s century-long legacy of leadership in health and nutrition.”
Over the past year, the company has invested nearly $10 million worldwide in health and nutrition initiatives and is committed to continuing these efforts.