• Kraft Foods To Junk Snack Ads for Kids
  • February 4, 2005
  • Law Firm: Reed Smith LLP - Pittsburgh Office
  • Kraft Foods announced recently that it will voluntarily cease advertising food products to children under the age of 11 that do not meet new corporate health standards.

    The announcement comes as advocacy groups call for a ban on "junk" food advertising to children, and officials in Europe threaten to clamp down on standards regulating the advertising of mass-marketed foods.

    By the beginning of 2006, Kraft no longer will advertise Oreo and Chips Ahoy cookies, Kool-Aid and many other snacks in television, radio and print media viewed primarily by children between the ages of 6 and 11. The company already has in place a policy of not advertising in media with a principal audience under the age of 6.

    Instead, Kraft will begin to replace its current advertising mix to kids with increased ads of products that bear the company's new Sensible Solution flag. The company developed the labeling program using nutritional criteria derived from the 2005 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, and statements made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the National Academy of Sciences, and other public health authorities.

    Kraft foods that already qualify for the Sensible Solution flag, and will continue to be marketed to the 6-11 age group, include Sugar-Free Kool-Aid, Lunchables Fun Pack Chicken Dunks, and ½ the Sugar Fruity Pebbles cereal.

    Kraft will continue to market its mainstream products in media aimed at parents and families, the company stated, and will honor advertising commitments made this year.

    Advocates Seek an Advertising Ban

    Shortly before Kraft's announcement, The Center for Science in the Public Interest released new food marketing guidelines calling for an end to advertising "junk" food to youths under the age of 18.

    The Center is calling for a voluntary ban on ads for "low-nutrition foods" on television programs with more than a quarter of the audience under the age of 18. Its guidelines recommend against product or brand placement for such foods in media aimed at children, including movies, television shows, video games, Web sites and books. The CSPI urges an end to licensing agreements and cross-promotions with kid-oriented movies and TV programs, and efforts to market objectionable food products in schools.

    Dan Jaffe, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers, commented to the media that under these guidelines, teenagers would be allowed to drive before they could view snack ads.

    CSPI sent letters to TV networks, movie studios and food marketers urging the "voluntary" adoption of its new guidelines, which are longer than those sent earlier to Congress and federal regulators. Representatives of the group have stated they do not expect Congressional or regulatory action, and have hired a director of litigation to develop lawsuits aimed at food industry practices.

    The link between the marketing of mass-produced food and health concerns is under examination in other parts of the world as well -- particularly in Europe. A World Health Organization official recently stated publicly that unless advertisers make more effort to fight obesity, advertising rules would be tightened. The WHO takes the position that self-regulation has not worked in the past and is pushing for co-regulation.

    Why This Matters: Voluntarily deciding to alter marketing tactics is one thing, but legislatively banning a particular type of advertising won't lead to public health benefits. For example, health experts have noted total caloric intake regulates weight, and that many of the so-called healthier foods, such as reduced sugar versions, contain the same amount of calories as their original counterparts. A better option than targeting advertising is to encourage education regarding healthful and balanced eating habits and the benefits of exercise.