About CFBAI

More About CFBAI

The Council of Better Business Bureaus (CBBB) and 10 leading food and beverage companies created CFBAI in 2006 to respond to requests from the FTC, other federal agencies and the Institute of Medicine that self-regulation and the food industry do more to improve food advertising to children due to concerns about childhood obesity.

As CFBAI participants, the companies agree to comply with the CFBAI Core Commitments in their child-directed food advertising. Since 2013 this means that all participants’ foods advertised to children under age 12 must meet CFBAI’s uniform category-specific nutrition criteria. CFBAI participants have made hundreds of recipe changes to improve the foods they advertise to children, including increases in the amounts of food groups and beneficial nutrients and decreases in the amounts of calories and nutrients–to-limit including sugar, sodium and saturated fat.

CFBAI’s History

CBBB has a decades-long history of operating respected self-regulation programs that set high standards for industry. CFBAI, which was launched in 2007, complements another CBBB self-regulation program the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU), which was established in 1974. CFBAI’s goal is to improve the mix of foods advertised to children to encourage healthier dietary choices.

CFBAI works to achieve this goal through its Core Commitments, which require that participants use nutrition criteria to govern the foods they advertise to children under age 12. CFBAI has demonstrated its commitment to strengthening its coverage of child-directed advertising and its nutrition criteria on an ongoing basis:

  • Expanded its “traditional” media coverage (TV, radio, print and websites) to include new media platforms such as mobile apps (2010);

  • Strengthened its minimum audience threshold to a standard of 35% children under age 12 (some participants had used a less strict standard) (2010);

  • Adopted science-based uniform nutrition criteria to replace company-specific criteria (announced 2011, implemented 2013);

  • Grown from 10 to 18 participants;

  • Created a niche program for the confectionery industry (2016).

Perhaps CFBAI’s most critical improvement was the development and implementation of its uniform nutrition criteria, which went into effect on December 31, 2013. Prior to this date, participants used company-specific nutrition criteria to determine the foods they advertised to children. CFBAI’s uniform nutrition criteria require that the same types of foods meet the same set of nutrition criteria, regardless of the manufacturer; are stronger overall than the previously used company-specific criteria; and bring more transparency to the participants’ commitments. CFBAI committed to review the criteria periodically to determine whether changes to the food categories are needed and whether the criteria reflect established government and/or scientific nutrition guidance.

Following USDA’s publication of its most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans in December 2015, CFBAI and its participants began the nutrition criteria review. As part of this review, CFBAI also must assess changes to the nutrition label as required under FDA’s revised food labeling rules announced in July 2016. CFBAI and its participants are committed to ongoing progress in the commitment to improve the children’s food advertising landscape.

CARU and CFBAI: BBB’s Children’s Advertising Self-Regulation Programs

BBB administers two children’s advertising self-regulation programs. CARU addresses how foods, and all products, are advertised to children. CFBAI addresses what foods are advertised to them. BBB’s complementary children’s advertising programs CARU and CFBAI work to promote responsible food advertising to children under age 12:

  • CARU works to ensure that child-directed advertising is truthful, accurate and appropriate for children. [Insert link to CARU site] CARU evaluates how foods and other products are advertised to children.

  • CFBAI addresses what foods are advertised to children. The program seeks to improve the nutritional quality of food advertising to children by requiring that participants use strong nutrition standards for the foods they advertise to children.

How does CFBAI define “Child-Directed Advertising?

CFBAI addresses food advertising that is primarily directed to children under age 12 or in “child-directed advertising.” CFBAI thus focuses on advertising on children’s media, such as kids’ TV programs on networks such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Disney XD, child-directed websites and mobile apps, Radio Disney, and print publications like Sports Illustrated for Kids.

Although each participant’s pledge details how it will implement its advertising commitment, certain definitions of child-directed advertising generally apply:

  • CFBAI and its participants use objective audience demographic data when available to define child-directed advertising because such data provides a predictable standard that is objective, workable, and realistically supports participants’ compliance with their commitments and the program administrator’s monitoring obligations.

  • The Core Commitments define child-directed advertising as advertising to audiences in which children under age 12 make up at least 35% of the audience. This means that children under age 12 make up at least 35% of the audience. This is a minimum threshold.

  • Several participants use even more rigorous thresholds and define child-directed advertising as advertising to audiences in which children under age 12 comprise as little as 25% or 30% of the audience.

  • Where there is no reliable audience demographic data, CFBAI and its participants determine whether advertising is child-directed based on assessment of other factors, such as the target audience as reflected in the company’s media plan, where else the food or website or app is advertised, and the overall impression of the ad or website considering multiple factors considered as a totality, e.g., language, graphics, subject matter, or use of age-screening tools.

CFBAI was created to change food advertising to children. The program does not cover all ads that kids may see or find appealing. Children see ads in media or environments where they are only a small percentage of the audience, viewers or visitors.

How has CFBAI expanded and improved the program over its 10 year history?

CFBAI has strengthened the program on an ongoing basis since its 2007 launch, including:

  • Expanding its “traditional” media coverage (TV, radio, print and websites) to include new media platforms such as mobile apps (2010);

  • Strengthening its minimum audience threshold to cover audiences in which 35% of the audience is children under age 12 (2010) (some participants had used a less strict standard);

  • Adopting science-based uniform nutrition criteria to replace company-specific criteria (announced 2011, implemented 2013);

  • Growing from 10 to 18 participants;

  • Creating a niche program for the confectionery industry (2016) [Add link to CCAI].

The development and implementation of CFBAI’s uniform nutrition criteria is CFBAI’s most important improvement. Prior to the implementation date, participants used company-specific nutrition criteria to determine the foods they advertised to children. Now all participants must use the uniform criteria, which require that the same types of foods meet the same set of nutrition criteria, regardless of the manufacturer; are stronger overall than the previously used company-specific criteria; and bring more transparency to the participants’ commitments.

When it announced the uniform criteria, CFBAI committed to review them periodically to determine whether changes to the food categories are needed and whether the criteria reflect established government and/or scientific nutrition guidance. Following USDA’s publication of its most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans in December 2015, CFBAI and its participants began a nutrition criteria review to determine whether the criteria should be updated.

Contact Us

For program info, visit bbb.org/kids_food or contact CFBAI at kidsinitiative(at)council.bbb.org.

To submit a comment or question regarding the program or a children’s food ad, write kidsinitiative(at)council.bbb.org.