Natural Foods Merchandiser

Changes Urged in Marketing to Minors

Using nutritional values as a guide, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has called on food marketers to stop promoting junk food to children.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based group, children see 58 commercial messages on television each day—almost half for food. CSPI's Guidelines for Responsible Food Marketing to Children calls on companies not to market soda, caffeinated drinks, sports drinks or sugary juice drinks; or foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat or that have added sugars or high salt content; or that are served in large-portion sizes.

CSPI isn't just providing guidelines for which foods shouldn't be marketed to kids; it's also providing guidelines for the techniques used to market low-nutrition food. They advise:

  • Not advertising on TV shows that have an audience composed of more than one-fourth children
  • Not using product or brand placement in media (movies, TV shows, video games, Web sites or books) aimed at kids
  • Not agreeing to license or cross-promote characters from kid-oriented movies or television
  • Not using school programs, curricula or educational incentives to market junk food.

Released on Jan. 6, the guidelines are aimed at children under the age of 18.

On Jan.12, Kraft Foods announced its new advertising guidelines. The company is introducing a "Sensible Solution" labeling program that will "flag" products that meet specific "better-for-you" nutrition criteria established by Kraft. In addition, Kraft is altering the mix of products that it advertises in television, radio and print media viewed primarily by children ages 6 to 11. This will include phasing out such products as regular Kool-Aid, Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies in favor of Sensible Solution products such as Sugar-Free Kool Aid.

CSPI applauded Kraft's changes, but also called on Kraft to go further and "strengthen its sodium standards, limit advertising to kids 12 to 17 and extend its marketing guidelines to [limit] cartoon characters on packages, 'advergames' on the Internet, contests and other forms of marketing."

Major industry groups, including the American Beverage Association and Grocery Manufacturers of America, have issued releases stating that they support the industry's self-regulatory body, the Children's Advertising Review Unit and, in the case of the ABA, that "We believe self-regulation of marketing and advertising practices is the most effective way to ensure that commercials or advertisements directed at youth do not contain inappropriate messages."

CARU is a division of the Better Business Bureaus, is funded by regulated companies and, according to CSPI, "seeks to 'preserve their freedom' to advertise to kids."

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