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Sara Lee joins scheme against junk food advertising to children

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 24-Sep-2010

Sara Lee has become the latest food manufacturer to join the voluntary Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) that aims to restrict advertising of junk food to children.

The initiative was set up by the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB) in 2006 after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched a probe investigating industry’s marketing to children. Its stated aim is “to shift the mix of advertising messaging directed at children to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthier lifestyles.”

So far, 17 major food and beverage companies have joined the program – up from ten when it was first launched.

BBB vice president and director of the CFBAI Elaine D. Kolish said: “Under the CFBAI, the participants’ voluntary use of solid nutrition standards has steadily improved the nutritional profile of foods and beverages being advertised to children under 12. The calories, fat, sugar or sodium content of more than 100 products have decreased and four companies are not engaging in child-directed advertising at all.”

Of the 17 participating companies, Coca-Cola has continued a no child marketing strategy; and Mars, Cadbury and Hershey have decided not to engage in any advertising to children either. Under the initiative, products must meet government standards defining the term “healthy” or the American Heart Association’s HeartCheck program criteria.

Vice president, consumer and shopper activation, at Sara Lee Corporation Laston Charriez said: “We’re pleased to be joining the CFBAI with our industry peers to help promote healthier products to kids. We look forward to working with the CFBAI and its members on this important topic.”

The initiative also requires that companies restrict use of third-party licensed characters to healthy products; do not advertise their products in schools; do not seek product placement in media primarily directed to children; and limit foods and beverages shown in children’s interactive games to healthy products.

The program aims to use industry self-regulation as a tool to address concerns about child-directed food and drink advertising and childhood obesity.

Childhood obesity is a major and growing concern in the United States, with 17.6 percent of 12 to 19 year olds considered obese, 17 percent of six to 11 year olds, and 12.4 percent of two to five year olds in 2007.

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