CHICAGO (Reuters) - Kellogg Co. said on Thursday that it would change the way it markets food to children and only promote products that meet certain nutritional standards, fending off threatened litigation.
In conjunction with the new guidelines, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Campaign for Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) said they would not proceed with a threatened lawsuit against the company.
The largest U.S. cereal maker said that products advertised on media for which half the audience is under 12 years old would have 200 or less calories per serving, less than two grams of saturated fat, no more than 230 milligrams of sodium and 12 grams of sugar.
Products that do not meet the criteria will either be reformulated or will no longer be marketed to children under 12 by the end of 2008, the company said.
Shares of Kellogg were up 5 cents at $52.21 in morning New York Stock Exchange trade.
Kellogg’s plan is the latest attempt by a food company to respond to parental concerns — as well as threats of litigation or government regulation — over the increasing spread of childhood obesity.
In 2005, Kraft Foods Inc. said it would stop advertising products like Oreo cookies and Kool-Aid beverages to children younger than 12. In 2004 General Mills announced its plan to switch to using whole grains in all of its breakfast cereals.
Ken Harris, a principal at consulting firm Cannondale Associates, said Kellogg’s plan expanded on what other manufacturers were doing.
“It’s more comprehensive and they are taking probably bolder steps than perhaps some others, but at the end of it all, it’s all part of the same message,” Harris said.
“They are trying, in some respects, to beat what is inevitable from regulators and make it unnecessary for regulators to step in,” he added.
In January 2006, CSPI, CCFC and two Massachusetts parents announced their intent to sue Kellogg and Viacom Inc., parent company of the Nickelodeon children’s television network, over advertising aimed at children.
“We’re pleased that we were able to work collaborative with Kellogg and that litigation proved not to be necessary,” said CSPI Litigation Director Steve Gardner.