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Kellogg’s to self-regulate food ads, parents and advocacy groups drop lawsuit threat

It may not be crying uncle, but packaged food giant Kellogg's has announced plans to adopt new nutrition and advertising standards that go some ways towards assuaging the concerns of parents and advocacy groups arguing that childhood obesity and food advertising to kids are linked. Two Massachusetts parents who were threatening to sue Kellogg's and Nickelodeon parent company Viacom for marketing what they perceived as junk food to kids have dropped lawsuit plans against Kellogg's after its announcement today.
June 14, 2007

It may not be crying uncle, but packaged food giant Kellogg’s has announced plans to adopt new nutrition and advertising standards that go some ways towards assuaging the concerns of parents and advocacy groups arguing that childhood obesity and food advertising to kids are linked. Two Massachusetts parents who were threatening to sue Kellogg’s and Nickelodeon parent company Viacom for marketing what they perceived as junk food to kids have dropped lawsuit plans against Kellogg’s after its announcement today.

For its part, Kellogg’s is changing the way it approaches the kids market, and pledges to limit advertising on kid-targeted TV, radio, print and third-party websites to food that has less than 200 calories, 230 milligrams of sodium, 12 grams of sugar and zero trans fat per serving. The company also promises not to advertise in schools, sponsor product placement or use licensed characters or branded toys in connection with food that doesn’t meet their new nutrition standards. By 2008, all Kellogg’s foods that don’t meet the criteria will either be reformulated or will no longer be advertised to kids under 12.

The company says its new nutrition standards and marketing reforms also serve as the basis for its pledge to the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a voluntary, self-regulatory program created last fall to restrict food advertising to kids. Kellogg’s is one of 10 major food and beverage companies that collaborated on the initiative penned in light of new CARU guidelines that propose restrictions on product placement, integrated commercials and unhealthy lifestyle depictions in campaigns.

Viacom, however, may not be off the hook, as it was not part of the Kellogg’s initiative and advocacy groups the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) continue to mull over taking legal action. The intent to file a lawsuit against Kellogg’s and Viacom was announced in January 2006 on the CSPI’s website, which claimed the two companies were directly harming kids’ health by marketing food products high in sugar, saturated/trans fat and salt, and devoid of nutrients.

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