Food firms asked to follow Kellogg's 'socially responsible' lead

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Childhood obesity, Nutrition

A number of major food firms in the US have been called upon to
follow the lead of the Kellogg Company, by restricting food
marketing to children and improving the nutritional profile of
their kid-oriented products.

In letters sent to Coca-Cola, General Mills, Kraft, PepsiCo and McDonald's, Democratic Representative Edward Markey asked the firms to outline the extent and timeframe of any marketing restrictions they intend to implement. Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, Markey said that measures already implemented are commendable, but Kellogg has demonstrated how much further food companies are able to go to help address the childhood obesity epidemic. The global cereal firm, he said, has "vaulted ahead of the rest of the food and beverage industry". "I recognize that many other companies have undertaken efforts, as a member of the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, to shift the mix of advertising messages to children 12 and under to encourage healthier dietary changes and healthy lifestyles." "This is notable (…) Yet the voluntary commitments that form the basis of this initiative are inferior to those announced by Kellogg,"​ he wrote in letters to the firms this week. Markey will today chair a hearing in the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet entitled Images that Kids See on the Screen.​ At the hearing, the Subcommittee will explore the link between TV advertising and childhood obesity, and whether regulatory or legislative solutions are needed to restrict food marketing to kids on television. The information requested on the individual companies' marketing practices will help inform the Subcommittee as to additional steps that may be warranted to "safeguard kids from junk food ads,"​ said Markey. "These companies are some of the world's largest food and beverage marketers, and together they have the power to play a significant role in solving the childhood obesity problem through socially responsible advertising practices. I urge them to follow Kellogg's lead,"​ he said in a separate statement. Kellogg last week said it would adopt global nutrition standards for the products it markets to children. The firm committed to reformulate or cease the marketing for those products that fall short of the criteria. These set an upper threshold per serving of less than or equal to 200 calories, less than or equal to 2 grams of saturated fat, labeled 0 grams of trans fat, less than or equal to 230 milligrams of sodium and labeled 12 grams of sugar. The firm willl also continue its policy of not marketing to children under the age of six. Kellogg said its nutrition criteria, which "set a new standard"​ of social responsibility,​ will also guide targeted future innovation and product development. The firm's ultimate aim is to provide consumers with "even more product choices with enhanced nutritional value".​ The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also said this week that they will hold a forum to examine the food industry's marketing practices to children. Due to be held in Washington, DC on July 18, the forum will examine progress made in the implementation of recommendations issued by the agencies last year on self-regulatory actions for companies marketing food and beverages to children.

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