Good Intentions Gone Bad Advertising rules for kids would prohibit most dairy products

February 23, 2010 10:01 AM


Under proposed rules, marketers could advertise Cocoa Puffs to kids, but not most cheeses and yogurts.

In proposed rules governing which food products can and cannot be advertised to kids ages 2 to 17, logic and science have apparently been left behind.

Under the proposal, to be presented to Congress in July, marketers could not advertise products that contain more than 1 g of saturated fat, any trans fat, 13 g of added sugar or 200 mg of sodium. Some breakfast cereals and potato chips would qualify but not cheese, flavored milks or even some low-fat yogurts.

"We're in a funny place when Cocoa Puffs qualifies and cheese doesn't,” says Connie Tipton, president and CEO of the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA). "This proposal is not based on science.”

The proposal was made late last year by the so-called SNAC PAC, which is mandated by Congress and comprises the Federal Trade Commission, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and USDA's Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. A complex set of guidelines would restrict which foods can be promoted through traditional advertising in print, TV and radio as well as digital advertising, in-store promotions, product packaging, contests and sweepstakes.

"These new standards, which were intended to limit calorie and fat-laden foods with little nutritional value, are overly strict…[SNAC PAC] missed the mark by restricting many nutrient-rich foods like low-fat flavored milk and yogurt, reduced-fat cheese and fat-free ice creams from being marketing to kids and teens,” says Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs.

Under the proposal, non-fat and low-fat white milk and yogurt without sweeteners or other added ingredients would be allowed. Other products would have to meet the following standards:

  • Saturated fat: 1 g or less per FDA serving size and not more than 15% of the product's calories.
  • Trans fat: 0 g.
  • Sugar: No more than 13 g of added sugar per serving size.
  • Sodium: No more than 200 mg per portion, with levels reduced to 140 mg over time.

The marketing of 1% flavored milk would be restricted because the level of saturated fat is 1.5 g per 8-oz. serving, Frye says. There would even be restrictions on some fat-free flavored milks with sugars higher than 25 g per serving because they contain 12 g of natural lactose and 13 g of added sugar.

The proposal would eliminate most natural cheese, which contains more than 200 mg of sodium per serving. Nor would reduced-fat cheese qualify based on saturated-fat content.

Authority to regulate food advertising is part of the Healthy Kids Act, introduced by Reps. Jim Moran (D-Va.) and Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) last November. The bill would also establish an Office of Childhood Overweight and Obesity Prevention within the Department of Health and Human Services.

Bonus content:

Interageny Working Group on Food Marketed to Children Tentative Proposed Nutrition Standards

FTC Report Sheds New Light on Food Marketing to Children and Adolescents


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