Kellogg’s Agrees to Restrict Food Marketing to Kids!? For REAL?

kelloggs.jpgCan it be? Is it so? Virginia, there IS a Santa Claus!! Ah, the power of first strike offense. Truly amazing.

This just in from the gang at CCFC…Press release only, I’ll follow up via policy folks when Shaping Youth interviews some Washington nutrition experts tomorrow (Friday at 5pm EST) as well as local food policy folks to weigh in on whether it’s substance or floof. WebMD article here, New York Times article here, and CNET article about Center for Digital Democracy’s (CDD) food report which Shaping Youth reported on here.

Looks promising. Psuedo-voluntary restrictions with some TEETH merit attention. As this two-minute Common Sense Media video on “media ads and obesity” conveys, we need all the help we can get from marketers to “do the right thing” for kids since they’ve been a MAJOR cause of exacerbating the problem to begin with by mining kids, and lining pockets!

It’ll be interesting to see who else jumps on this bandwagon, (fingers crossed) though there’s bound to be major reverb on the nanny state argument, as this Free Republic blog thread reveals. Meanwhile, here’s the (cautiously optimistic) release that the world’s largest cereal manufacturer is taking steps to (ahem! cough, gag) “self-rein” its food marketing to children. (albeit with a nudge from the hint of regulatory mandates; which now needs monitoring for follow through to keep from backsliding into ‘puff-n-stuff’ PR) Here’s the CCFC release:

“Today, as part of a settlement agreement with CCFC and the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Kellogg announced major restrictions in the way that they will market food to children. In return CCFC, CSPI and two Massachusetts parents will not proceed with a planned lawsuit against Kellogg.

The settlement, which is the result of more than a year of negotiations, is an important step in limiting children’s exposure to junk food marketing. We are particularly pleased that Kellogg agreed to end all in-school advertising to children under 12 and to restrict its use of licensed media characters.”

“While Kellogg’s new policy doesn’t go as far as we would like – we believe all advertising should be targeted to parents, not children – it is a tacit admission that the advertising practices favored by the food industry have had a powerful influence on children’s food choices and have had a negative effect on children’s health and well-being. For far too long, the food industry has denied that marketing is a factor in children’s consumption of unhealthy foods.”

Here’s what (CCFC/CSPI) agreed upon:

Foods advertised on media–including TV, radio, print, and third-party websites–that have an audience of 50 percent or more children under age 12 will have to meet Kellogg’s new nutrition standards, which require that one serving of the food has:
· No more than 200 calories;
· No trans fat and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat;
· No more than 230 milligrams of sodium (except for Eggo frozen waffles);
· No more than 12 grams of sugar (excluding sugar from fruit, dairy, and vegetables).

In addition, Kellogg will not:
· Advertise to children under 12 in schools and preschools.
· Sponsor product placements for any products in any medium primarily directed at kids
under 12;
· Use licensed characters on mass-media advertising directed primarily to kids under 12, as a basis for a food form, or on the front labels of food packages unless those foods meet the nutrition standards;
· Use branded toys in connection with foods that do not meet the nutrition standards.

We hope that other companies will follow suit. We will certainly continue to do everything that we can to ensure that they will.”

Media contact: Josh Golin (617.278.4172;

Yowza. Strong arm tactics and paper-pushing pays off I guess…

Meanwhile, the Expatriate’s Kitchen blog has a wonderful childhood nutrition series and also a fabulous new post today about encouraging kids to be active!

Great progress for kids’ health and well-being transpiring today…kudos to all!



  1. These changes are a step in the right direction – and an important one. It’s an admission by a major company that their marketing techniques have a powerful impact on children and that these techniques shouldn’t be used to market their junkiest products. And it’s great that Kellogg is making some substantive changes, particularly ending their involvement in schools and restricting their use of the cartoon characters that have so much influence over young children.

    But Kellogg’s changes shouldn’t be interpreted, as some are doing, that all is right in the current self-regulation environment. These changes were made because of the threat of litigation and because all of the food companies are scrambling to avoid government regulation. In the coming years, we can expect Kellogg to use the same techniques (and new ones) to market slightly less-junky reformulated versions of the same products – unless the pressure continues.

    So I while I think it’s a good day, ultimately the jury is still out. The key will be whether it leads to more pressure on the food industry or less. Because the one thing we know is that pressure is the only thing that industry responds to.

  2. Hi Josh, nice to have CCFC weigh in directly on this…thanks for the comment!

    And yes, when it comes to advertising, ‘self-regulation’ is often oxymoronic due to profit motivation…public health policy comes into play here when poor nutrition is being sold in some rather blatantly subversive ways, aimed DIRECTLY at kids to bypass parental radar.

    I’m a big fan of free enterprise, but in this case, pressure and strong arm tactics are vital to sustainable change because if we wait for our industry to behave ethically, we’ll have an entire generation of prebuscent porkers with health problems up the wazoo costing taxpayers for many, many years to come.

    I’m generally an advocate of EDUCATION over regulation, favoring the “vote with your wallet” mode of economic change, in this case, when direct food marketing and media messaging is undermining and infiltrating beyond the eyes & purchase power of parents (advergaming/in-school tie-ins, texting, etc.) it requires a serious full court press to get marketers to “own up” and then “behave”…while we all cautiously monitor the outcomes of these huge groundbreaking promises closely.

    In my mind, kids shouldn’t have to pay the ultimate price for greed, with their health, quality of life and well-being.

    p.s. It IS important that Kellogg’s acknowledges that those marketing tactics indeed ‘work’ (which is why Shaping Youth is using them in COUNTER-marketing!) But it’s kinda like a kid getting busted with his hand in the cookie jar…it doesn’t mean it won’t happen again…it just means they’ll behave for awhile. 😉 –Amy

  3. Gamine Expedition (an academic/gaming/digital media POV) just posted some level-headed commentary about the usual HOWLS from kids’ food marketers claiming ad cutbacks will force the demise of children’s programming…

    She put it in a very logical context, saying simply:

    “While the press is already calling foul, the reality is much less dramatic. Kellogg’s ban on kids’ advertising will only apply to “unhealthy” products, and since they plan on cutting the sugar content, as well as fat, trans fat and salt contents from all of its existing products, the decision is unlikely to have much of an effect on their advertising practices.”

    Yup. But it’s SO much more poignant to bay at the moon like a wounded wolf with a paw caught in a trap and cry foul. sigh.

    Here’s a link to the rest of her posting:

  4. Couple more links of note here…

    First, from Rebecca Scritchfield, of Balanced Health & Nutrition (just had a VERY exciting interview with this
    EXTREMELY well-versed dietary & digital media guru to recruit her into our S.Y. mix)

    And this recap from Robert Woods Johnson Foundation that adds this front of the box bit that I hadn’t seen before…

    “Kellogg also has said it will print “Nutrition at a Glance” labels on the front of its cereal boxes this year to highlight the amounts of calories, fat, sugar and sodium in a single serving (Sniffen, AP/Yahoo! News, 6/14/07; Cordeiro, Wall Street Journal, 6/14/07 [subscription required]; Martin, New York Times, 6/14/07 [registration required]).”

    Post here:

  5. LitDr2Be says

    Why are Eggo waffles excluded from this agreement?

  6. Good question. Eggos should NOT get a sodium hallpass by any means, and if you check our “Fumin’ Fuji” posting there’s a link to a great piece on their blog about the various ‘Eggo renditions’ of junky sales gimmicks.

    From a nutritional standpoint, Rebecca (link in comment section above) came as close as I can figure on the Eggo ‘get outta jail free’ card noting the following,

    “It’s probably because one waffle has 135 mg sodium so if you eat two waffles they wouldn’t comply with the guidelines.”

    It wouldn’t be the first time they’ve fudged a bit on serving size to create portion distortion. The other fave tactic is when companies do the bait & switch, screaming things like “0% transfat” when the item never had transfat to begin with.

    Same goes for sugar compliance…12g of sugar is not exactly something to crow about. We try to shoot for half of that, easily.

    Looking closely at those that didn’t make it, like Apple Jacks and Froot Loops, you’ve gotta figure they’re only a ‘hair off’ based on these ‘new and improved’ guidelines…(13g and 15 g respectively) so they can dial down the damage on that one pretty fast w/a sugar sub, then claim a good guy/new guidelines repositioned product to show how compliant they are. (sorry if that sounds cynical)

    They’ve already come out with the “1/3 less sugar” why to buys, which would put them in good stead with the new guidelines, but frankly, I’m of the opinion that ‘junk is junk’ and ‘froot loops’ w/sucralose, dye & chem cuisine may meet THEIR guidelines, but with less than 1g of fiber it’s hard to even be thinking of it as ‘food’ much less ‘healthier cereal.’ argh.

    At least that’s what I tell our kids when we’re counter-marketing the ‘candy bar for breakfast’ mentality of sugary cereals, waffles and pastry.

    They strive for our ‘five alive’ sound bite: <5g sugar & >5g fiber to lead a good long life. Nope, those Froot Loops don’t come close.

    And what’s with the “Froot” vs. Fruit bit anyway? (don’t get me started on cleverness that confuses the heck out of kids) Ok, crabby now. Maybe too much sugar. 😉

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