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Kellogg Self-Regulates Food Ads To Kids

The Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood is says it won't file suit against Kellogg after the company agreed to adopt nutrition standards for the food it advertises to kids and take other steps, including pledging not to put any product placements in any media targeted to kids under 12.

The groups had threatened to file suit against the company and Viacom for "directly harming kids’ health since the overwhelming majority of food products they market to children are high in sugar, saturated and trans fat, or salt, or almost devoid of nutrients."

Josh Golin, a spokesman for CCFC, said that all options were still on the table regarding Viacom, and that a suit was "Very possible." While Kellogg approached the groups early on about settling, Viacom has not, said Golin.

According to the new Kellogg standards, any adds for Kellogg products on TV, radio Web sites or in print that reaches an audience of more than 50% kids under age 12 will have to meet the standards, which require that a single serving have no more than 200 calories, have no trans fat, have no more than 230 milligrams of sodium (In the leggo my Eggo department, there is a carveout for Eggo waffles that has something to do with the sodium helping keep them from falling apart in the toaster), and no more than 12 grams of sugar (excluding sugars from fruit, dairy and vegetables).

Kellogg, which says it already does not advertise to children under 6, says that additionally it will not use licensed characters on ads to kids under 12 unless the product meets the standards.

By the end of 2008, Kellogg said that it would either reformulate the nutritional content of affected products--its lineup includes Froot Loops, Frosted Flakes and Pop-Tarts) or stop advertising them to kids.

CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson said Kellogg's move "has vaulted over the rest of the food industry."

The move comes as a government-industry task force is preparing various recommendations for how media companies and advertisers can help battle childhood obesity. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, a member of the task force, has warned that the FCC may have to regulate snack food ads to kids if self-regulation doesn't work.

House Telecommuncations Subcommittee Chairman Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who has pushed the FCC to regulate food ads, was pleased with Kellogg's move. "The ‘snap, crackle, and pop’ you hear is the sound of  of public health progress," he said Thursday in a statement. "I applaud Kellogg for this ‘smart start’ toward ending TV advertisements  for sugary cereal and other so-called ‘junk food’ products to young children.   I  hope that the rest of the industry will adopt measures that, at a minimum, meet those of Kellogg’s."