We've known for some time that children's TV shows advertise foods with sky-high sugar and fat contents. Supermarkets don't make it any easier, placing cereals with the lowest nutrition content within easy reach of short arms. Such marketing devices make it difficult for parents to shop for children along healthy guidelines. It's particularly difficult when children are in tow at the supermarket, demanding unhealthy foods and threatening tantrums if they don't get them.
Parents have understood this situation for a long time, but it's difficult to make changes when overwhelming advertising targets children with unhealthy food choices. At last, someone is doing something about this situation. The Council of Better Business Bureaus gathered major food and beverage producers together in 2006 with a goal of shifting children's advertising towards increasingly healthier products and messaging. The initiative has met with a success that hopefully will spread throughout the industry.
“(Thanks to this program), advertising to kids under 12 is increasingly for products that are lower in fats, calories, sugar and sodium and include more of the vitamins, fiber and other positive nutrients that kids need,” said Elaine Kolish, Vice President of the CBBB. “The substantial progress made by the initiative shows self-regulation can work when companies’ voluntary commitments to change are matched with fair, unbiased, third-party oversight.”
Four of the 16 participating companies committed to not advertising to children at all and the other 12 participants pledged to only advertise products that meet nutritional standards derived from authoritative and science-based nutrition guidelines. Participants are increasingly promoting healthier food and beverage options to kids, including:
1. Sugar content of advertised cereals reduced from as much as 16 grams of sugar to the point where now almost two-thirds have 11 grams or less.
2. The sodium content of many soups and canned pastas advertised on kids programming has been reduced by 20 and 30 percent.
3. Fast-food restaurants advertise healthier choices in kids’ meals, including fresh apple slices or low-fat or skim milk.
4. 83 percent of participants’ ads were for foods and beverages that provided at least a good source of a nutrient shortfall for children—including calcium and fiber—or a healthier food group.
5. Millions of dollars have gone toward reformulation and creation of more than 100 products to meet nutrition standards.
6. A commitment that 100 percent of advertising targeted towards children will be for healthier dietary choices.