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US Companies Cut Junk Food Ads on Kids' Shows

Eleven big US producers of chocolates, fries, sodas and sugary cereals pledged to cut back advertising aimed a kids to help fight child obesity.

To head off being forced off the air by law, major corporations like McDonald's, Coca-Cola, Mars and Kellogg said this week they will pare back advertisements during television programming where the audiences are over half children under 12 years old.

Candy maker Cadbury Adams said it would stop running ads for its super-sweet bubble gums beginning March 2008. Soft drink and fast-food conglomerate Pepsico said it would limit its under-12-directed pitches to its sports-rehydration drink Gatorade and its low-fat Baked Cheetos snacks.

The initiative was promoted by the US Federal Trade Commission and the Council of Better Business Bureaus (BBB), a self-regulating business group, as sentiment against junk food in the United States rises and Americans' waistlines bulge.

The others in the group include Campbell Soup Company, General Mills, Hershey Foods, Kraft Foods and Unilever.

Studies show a steep increase in overweight children, with 20 percent measuring as obese, three times the level of 40 years ago.

Critics of the fatty and sugary foods link the problem to publicity. Children get hit with some 3,000 advertisements a day from television, the Internet, magazines and even on school buses, said one recent study by US pediatricians.

On children-targeted TV programming, one third of advertising time is given to spots pushing sweets, one third to breakfast cereals -- which are often highly sweetened -- and nine percent to fast foods.

The ads are important for businesses: children have considerable influence in buying the snacks and cereals worth some 500 billion dollars a year.

Under the BBB initiative the companies are setting their own collective standard for what is and is not allowed in advertisements
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