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The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has released a report on television ads targeting children with food marketing. The organization assessed the advertisements shown during six hours of television airing on 12 channels that show children's programming and compared the results to a similar assessment from 2012. The comparison purportedly showed that the percentage of ads marketing food and beverages is up from 14% to 23%, and "two thirds of food and beverage advertisements during children’s television programming are unhealthy according to the food industry’s own [Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative] standards and virtually all are unhealthy according to the more evidence-based, expert [Interagency Working Group] standards."

The University of Connecticut's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity has released a report on the state of nutrition and marketing for beverages targeted to children. The researchers identified "common practices that may confuse parents about the ingredients and healthfulness of sweetened children's drinks," including the "widespread use of low-calorie sweeteners," the "sugar content and calories" and the serving sizes of "100% juice products" that "contained more than the recommended maximum daily amount of juice for toddlers." The report recommends that "manufacturers should develop and market unsweetened plain waters for children," that media companies with children's programming "should implement nutrition standards that comply with expert recommendations that can be advertised to children in their media" and that retailers should "clearly label children's drinks that contain added sweeteners."

The Council of Better Business Bureaus' Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI) has announced an agreement among 18 companies to strengthen nutrition criteria for advertising to children under 12. Under the agreement, participating companies will not advertise food products to children unless the foods meet several updated standards, including reduced sodium levels. The standards will also limit "whole grain" labeling to those foods that "contribute a meaningful amount of whole grains" and limit nutrient-based qualifiers to "under-consumed" nutrients rather than "essential" nutrients. CFBAI also issued a white paper detailing the updated standards and the reasoning supporting each change. The implementation date is January 1, 2020, chosen to coincide with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's updated food-labeling regulations.

The California legislature has passed a bill that would require retail food facilities to make the default beverages sold with children's meals "water, sparkling water or flavored water, as specified, or unflavored milk or a nondairy milk alternative, as specified." Flavored waters may not contain "added natural or artificial sweeteners," while nondairy milk alternatives must contain fewer than 130 calories. In addition, a restaurant's menu and advertisements must display the default beverages. The bill would "not prohibit a restaurant’s ability to sell, or a customer’s ability to purchase, an alternative beverage instead of the default beverage offered with the children’s meal, if requested by the purchaser of the children’s meal." The bill has been presented to Governor Jerry Brown for approval.

Researchers have released a study concluding that rates of childhood obesity are rising rather than declining or stabilizing as previously reported. Using data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers reportedly found that although the prevalence of obesity has increased across all childhood age groups since 1999, “significant increases in obesity and severe obesity” have appeared in children aged two to five and adolescent females aged 16 to 19. Asheley C. Skinner, et al., “Prevalence of Obesity and Severe Obesity in US Children, 1999-2016,” Pediatrics, March 2018. The researchers reported that they observed “disconcerting” racial-ethnic differences in obesity rates, with African-Americans and Hispanics having a higher prevalence of obesity while Asian-American children had a lower prevalence in all age and sex categories. Specifically, the researchers noted “astounding” differences between Hispanic children and those of all other races, finding nearly half of all Hispanic youth overweight or obese. Researchers purportedly…

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has ruled that the Guinness World Records holder for hacky sack kicks has no valid claims for false advertisement, false endorsement or right of publicity against Wendy’s International Inc., which distributed a hacky sack with a children’s meal and challenged children to break the plaintiff's record. Martin v. Wendy's Int'l Inc., No. 15-6998 (7th Cir., entered March 9, 2018). An Illinois district court previously dismissed the plaintiff’s suit for failure to state a claim. “No reasonable consumer would think [the plaintiff] endorsed the footbags,” the appellate court held, because “Guinness World Records” was printed on both the toy and its packaging and the instructional card identified the plaintiff as the holder of the record rather than an endorser. The court also found that “no reasonable consumer would believe that free toys accompanying kids’ meals to encourage intra-family play were the same…

The U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has upheld two challenges to television ads, one for Aldi Stores Ltd. and one for The Wrigley Co.'s Extra chewing gum, ruling that neither can be aired again. In the Aldi ad, "Kevin the Carrot,” an advertising mascot, was used to advertise alcohol beverages in a parody of “The Sixth Sense.” The ad began with Kevin saying, “I see dead parsnips,” and featured a voice-over explaining, “Kevin was feeling a little bit tense. He thought there were spirits. He had a sixth sense. As it turned out, his instincts were right. There were a few spirits that cold Christmas night.” Throughout the ad, various alcohol beverages appear. The ad was challenged on the grounds that the ad was likely to appeal to minors because the main character was a child's toy. Aldi argued that the ad was part of its 2017 holiday parody series…

After reviewing an ad for Subway’s “Fresh Fit for Kid’s Meal” featuring premium toys and offering a sweepstakes for a tablet, the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) has recommended that the restaurant chain clearly disclose material information and avoid sales pressure when advertising to children. CARU determined that while the contest rules were available on Subway’s website, the ad itself did not disclose that the contest was only open to those 18 and older, did not provide a free means of entry and did not disclose the odds of winning the tablet. CARU also found that the language “Hurry into Subway … otherwise you’ll miss out” could create undue sales pressure on children. CARU recommended that future ads contain audible disclosures understandable to children, and Subway agreed to take the recommendations into account.

JAMA Pediatrics has retracted a 2012 study authored by Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab, because of “inadequate oversight of data collection and pervasive errors in the analyses and reporting.” The study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, reported that children ages 8-11 were about 30 percent more likely to choose an apple with a cartoon-character sticker over a unbranded cookie, concluding that “brands and cartoon characters” could increase consumption of healthier foods in school lunchrooms. A reader reportedly sent Wansink a letter in February 2017 noting several errors and the study data was rechecked. In September, Wansink sent JAMA Pediatrics a notice of retraction and replacement acknowledging that the researchers “inadvertently provided an incorrect description of the study design and sample size, used an inadequate statistical procedure, and presented a mislabeled bar graph.” After that notice was published, Wansink said the Robert…

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has published a guide encouraging agricultural companies to enact child-­labor policies to combat abuse in the industry. The guide offers "practical steps to ensure that programmes contribute to safe employment and training opportunities for youth and that activities intended to support vulnerable families do not have the unintended consequence of encouraging child labour," according to a June 12, 2017, press release. "The agriculture sector holds great potential before, during and after crises, to save lives and contribute to livelihoods, support rural households, provide decent employment and alternatives to child labour, including its worst forms," FAO Assistant Director-General Kostas Stamoulis was quoted as saying.   Issue 638

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