US: Food-bev industry adopts new rules for foods advertised to kids

Seventeen of the nation’s largest food and beverage companies unveiled an agreement that outlines uniform nutrition criteria for foods advertised to children that will further strengthen voluntary efforts to change child-directed food advertising. The Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), a program of the Council of Better Business Bureaus, will require many companies to change the recipes of these products or they will not be able to advertise them after December 31, 2013. The new criteria encourage the development of new products with less sodium, saturated fat and sugars, and fewer calories.

“These uniform nutrition criteria represent another huge step forward, further strengthening voluntary efforts to improve child-directed advertising. 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. The new criteria are comprehensive, establishing limits for calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and total sugars as well as requirements for nutrition components to encourage,” said Elaine Kolish, vice president and director of CFBAI.

The new CFBAI criteria take into account food science, U.S. dietary guidelines, and the real-world difficulties of changing recipes of well-known foods. The new CFBAI uniform criteria fill gaps in the system of company-specific standards. They also recognize the inherent differences in food categories and their role in the diet, and set calorie and nutrient requirements that are appropriate for 10 categories. Under the new CFBAI criteria, different foods such as cereals, peanut butter and dairy products have different nutrition criteria that are appropriate to each category.

The 10 product categories are juices; dairy products; grains, 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. Each category has its own set of criteria such as:

  • Juices. For juices, no added sugars are permitted, and the serving must contain no more than 160 calories.
  • Dairy. This category includes products such as milk and yogurt. For ready to drink flavored milk, an 8-fluid ounce portion is limited to 24 grams (g) of total sugars. For yogurt products, a 6-ounce portion is limited to 170 calories and 23 grams of total sugars. These sugars criteria include both naturally-occurring and sugars added for flavoring.
  • Grains, fruits and vegetable products (and items not in other categories). This category includes products such as cereals, crackers and cereal bars. Foods with ≤ 150 calories, such as most children’s breakfast cereals, must contain no more than 1.5 g of saturated fat, 290 milligrams (mg) of sodium and 10 g of sugar (products with > 150-200 calories get proportionately higher limits). Foods in this category also must provide ≥ ½ serving of foods to encourage (fruits, vegetables, non- or low-fat dairy, and whole grains) or  ≥ 10% of the Daily Value of an essential nutrient.
  • Seeds, nuts, nut butters and spreads. Foods in this category, which includes peanut butters, must have no more than 220 calories, 3.5 g of saturated fat, 240 mg of sodium and 4 g of sugar per 2 tablespoons. Foods in this category also must provide at least 1 ounce of protein equivalent.
  • Main dishes and entrees. Foods in this category, such as canned pastas, must have no more than 350 calories, 10% calories from saturated fat, 600 mg of sodium and 15 g of sugar per serving. Foods in this category also must provide either ≥ 1 serving of foods to encourage or ≥ ½ serving of foods to encourage and ≥ 10% of the Daily Value of two essential nutrients.

“The foods advertised during kid’s programming are better now than before. CFBAI participants have stepped up to the plate and changed what’s on it. As a result, the fat, sugar, sodium or calorie content of foods advertised to kids has been reduced, and their nutrient density increased. During the last several years, the CFBAI participants have changed the recipes of or created more than 100 products to meet their meaningful, science-based nutrition standards,” Kolish said.

Under the current company-specific criteria, a limit of 12 grams of added sugars was the general standard for children’s cereals. This represented a significant improvement from 16 or 15 grams of sugars in cereals advertised to children prior to the CFBAI. Now, under the CFBAI’s new uniform criteria, the limit for most children’s breakfast cereals is 10 grams of total sugars. Similarly, companies’ sodium standards for canned pastas ranged up to 750 mg. Now, 600 mg of sodium, the level FDA uses in its definition of “healthy” claims for main dishes, will be the maximum.

The 17 participants of the initiative are Burger King; Cadbury Adams USA; Campbell Soup Co; The Coca-Cola Co; ConAgra Foods; The Dannon Co; General Mills; The Hershey Co; Kellogg Co; Kraft Foods Global; Mars; McDonald’s USA; Nestlé USA; PepsiCo; Post Foods; Sara Lee Corp and Unilever United States.