New Study Ignores Major Strides Made under the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative

May 13, 2015

A new report by Dale Kunkel at the University of Arizona in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine totally dismisses and blatantly ignores the multi-billions of dollars spent and the multitude of proactive steps that the food and advertising community have taken to address child obesity in the U.S.

The research used in this report is inaccurate and the categories used to define healthy food for children are overly simplistic. The report’s “Go, Slow, Whoa” model to categorize food is inconsistent with the U.S. government’s standards on nutrition laid out in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and its standard for food served to children in the School Breakfast and School Lunch programs.

Unfortunately, Kunkel’s report thoroughly disregards the important strides the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) has made to combat childhood obesity over the past nine years. The CFBAI Initiative was launched in November 2006 by the Council of Better Business Bureaus to provide companies that advertise foods and beverages to children with a transparent and accountable advertising self-regulation mechanism. CFBAI is aimed at shifting the mix of advertising messages directed to children under 12 to encourage healthier dietary choices and healthy lifestyles and is the most extensive self-regulatory program ever undertaken within the food and beverage industry.  Kunkel, in assessing the program, states “How much has been accomplished?  Virtually nothing.”  In fact, there has been enormous progress with thousands of new and reformulated products that are lower in salt, fat and lower calories. Furthermore, advertising to children has been transformed with the vast majority of products advertised to kids 12 and under for healthier products.

The CFBAI program’s director, Elaine Kolish, has written a very thoughtful detailed response demonstrating how completely off target and inaccurate the Kunkel study is.

The success of CFBAI and the food and advertising community cannot be dismissed. Often in consultation with First Lady Michelle Obama, the industry has cut more than 6.4 trillion calories out of foods in just the last four years. More than 20,000 food products have been reformulated to provide healthier food options. The Federal Trade Commission, which has extensively studied food marketing to children, has commended the progress of this important initiative.

Obesity is a major problem and the food and advertising communities have been proactive in responding to help people lead healthier lives. The advertising community pledges its continued support and will work to expand the strength and momentum of the CFBAI program, which has proven so successful to date.

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