Kraft to drop children's adverts in obesity row

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The Independent Online

Kraft Foods, the US's largest food producer, will abandon advertising sugary snacks to children under 12 to head off criticism about the rising level of obesity among the young.

Kraft Foods, the US's largest food producer, will abandon advertising sugary snacks to children under 12 to head off criticism about the rising level of obesity among the young.

Oreo cookies, among Kraft's best-sellers, Kool-Aid and Chips Ahoy! cookies will no longer be advertised on television or the radio during programmes aimed at 6- to 11-year-olds.

The company said the ban, which will be rolled out this year and completed next year, was in response to the health concerns of consumers and the "global public health challenge of rising obesity rates".

Mark Berlind, Kraft's executive vice-president, said: "We recognise that parents are concerned about the mix of food products being advertised to younger children."

Kraft highlighted a report by the Washington-based Institute of Medicine (IOM) on preventing childhood obesity, which called for strengthened self- regulation of food and entertainment advertising to children. "We believe the IOM's proposal is constructive, and hope all stakeholders will join together to make real progress on this issue," Kraft said.

The US Food and Drug Administration has set a deadline of 2006 for manufacturers to replace saturated fats that raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease with more healthy forms of fat that can help lower cholesterol.

Kraft and other US foodmakers are also under pressure from consumer groups to make healthier products to combat obesity and diabetes or risk a raft of lawsuits from people claiming especially impressionable children have become hooked on high-sugar, fatty food.

The foods that will be affected by Kraft's worldwide advertising ban have annual sales of $3bn (£1.6bn). The Illinois-based company said it would continue to advertise its products in media "seen principally by parents and all-family audiences".

Kraft is planning a "Sensible Solution" flag labelling system for its products from April.

It joins General Mills and other packaged-food companies in responding to demands from groups such as the IOM. Childhood obesity has more than tripled since the 1970s to about nine million children older than six, the IOM says.

Kraft's UK brands include Kenco Coffee, Philadelphia cheese, Dairylea and Terry's Chocolate Orange.

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