Foodmakers May Change Recipes for Fare Advertised to Children

Nestle SA (NESN) and Kellogg Co. (K) are among 17 companies that agreed to stop advertising some foods and beverages to children after 2013 unless they reduce the sodium, sugar and fat, less stringent restrictions than a U.S. plan.

Under the voluntary nutrition criteria, unveiled today by the Council of Better Business Bureaus in Arlington, Virginia, main dishes marketed to kids younger than 12 can’t exceed 350 calories a serving, and cereals are limited to 10 grams of added sugar. Kellogg’s current voluntary standard for added sugar in cereals marketed to kids is 12 grams.

Proposed U.S. guidelines call for tougher benchmarks than the industry is proposing and cover ads targeting anyone younger than 18. The Obama administration is trying to reduce a childhood obesity rate that has almost tripled since 1980 to 17 percent, or 12.5 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. U.S. consumers spend an estimated $147 billion a year on obesity-related medical costs, with Medicare and Medicaid covering 42 percent.

The new industry plan is “really a ground-breaking agreement with the leading food and beverage companies,” said Elaine Kolish, vice president and director of the council’s Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. “For first time, companies are going to be using uniform nutrition criteria instead of company-specific criteria.”

No Packaging Restrictions

Participating companies include Nestle and Kraft Foods Inc. (KFT), the two biggest foodmakers, as well as Battle Creek, Michigan-based Kellogg, the largest U.S. breakfast-cereal maker.

Unlike voluntary guidelines proposed by a federal working group in April, the industry plan doesn’t apply advertising restrictions to food packaging. The two-year-old working group, created by Congress, includes officials from the CDC, Federal Trade Commission, Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture.

The proposed U.S. guidelines would apply to 20 types of advertising and promotion, including food packages, in-store displays, and television, print and Internet ads. The plan would urge companies not to target those materials to children and teens for products with more than 13 grams of added sugars, 210 grams of sodium or 1 gram of saturated fat.

The estimated costs of obesity to government health programs came in a report July 7 from the Trust for America’s Health and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

To contact the reporter on this story: Molly Peterson in Washington at mpeterson9@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Adriel Bettelheim at abettelheim@bloomberg.net

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