Advertising & Labeling

CEREAL AND CIGARETTES: IS KELLOGG THE NEW BIG TOBACCO?

Kellogg Company tagged with “unfair” marketing to children

Kellogg Company, which produces a variety of popular breakfast cereals, has found itself in hot water over advertisements for its sugar-sweetened cereal Apple Jacks. The decision made by the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) confirms claims made by two consumer groups that ads for Apple Jacks cereals present real fruit in a bad light. These ads depict a cinnamon-stick cartoon character identified as ”CinnaMon” and an apple character called “Bad Apple” racing towards a bowl of Apple Jacks. CARU, flanked by consumer groups Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBHF), argues that these ads portray apples as being undesirable and a poor option for breakfast, as CSPI and PBHF contend that “Bad Apple” is a character that is “grouchy and sour and depicted as meddling and scheming”. CARU concluded that Kellogg’s advertisements had a high probability of misleading children into believing that apples were unhealthy and that cinnamon—the principal flavor in the cereal—was a better option. It called on Kellogg to “refrain in the future from denigrating or disparaging apples or other fruits.” Kellogg has replied that their intention was to associate Apple Jacks with other cinnamon cereals, not vilify the fruit that is part of the cereal’s namesake. Despite this objection to CARU’s findings, Kellogg Company has agreed to alter its advertisements to incorporate some of its critics’ input.

CARU’s findings come within a context of increased scrutiny paid towards the causes of poor child health. In recent months, obesity has been one of the hot topics discussed by lawmakers, regulators, consumer organizations, and food industry leaders. In particular, the childhood obesity phenomenon has garnered a fair amount of concern among public policy makers. While CARU’s powers currently do not allow it to regulate any company or corporation, it remains a leader in the ongoing public debate regarding the relationship between childhood obesity and marketing practices.
What does this mean for your product or company?

Well, it could mean a lot or a little depending on what kind of product you sell as well as the nature of your marketing platform. When Allan Zackler addressed the World Obesity & Weight Loss Conference in Washington, DC a few months ago, he talked about a variety of issues that could affect your company. Allan’s presentation, entitled “The Brave New World of Obesity: Can You Still Promote Your Products Without Risking Litigation or Regulatory Action?”, focused on the current regulatory requirements for making nutritional and health claims about food products and dietary supplements, how the traditional federal regulatory model is evolving into a much more diversified and less uniform system of state and even local regulation, and how private legal action may shape the product formulation and marketing landscape in the future. Using some brief case studies, Allan looked at different marketing strategies that could succeed or fail in the currently evolving regulatory environment.

As regular FMLU readers know, Zackler & Associates has been on top of this regulatory evolution, helping its clients evaluate their needs and adapt to emerging conditions. Zackler & Associates can help you determine whether your should change your marketing or product labeling to avoid trouble in the future. We have developed in person presentations (see back page), including an adaptation of Allan’s talk discussed above, to educate our clients on issues that affect them. Our presentation, which covers obesity and the marketing of foods and dietary supplements, looks at the current parameters of the debate from a regulatory point of view and will provide you with a road map of who might regulate your products and how they might regulate them. It looks at how you can market “good” products and what you will need to watch for if you are marketing a “bad” product. Additionally, Allan is available to consult with you on a case by case basis.

 

Food Allergen Labeling Guidelines

The new food allergen labeling guidelines mandated by the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCPA) took effect on January 1, 2006. FALCPA covers all FDA-regulated packaged foods (except raw agricultural products), including flavoring, colorings and additives. Under the Act, major food allergens must be listed either (1) in the ingredients declaration by their common name, followed in parentheses by the name of source of the allergen (e.g., “whey (milk)”, “natural flavor (peanut)”); or (2) after the word “Contains” immediately after or adjacent to the ingredients declaration (e.g., “Contains peanuts”).