GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Kellogg Co. said Thursday it will increase the nutritional value of cereals and snacks for children or else stop marketing those products to them altogether.
Company brands such as Froot Loops cereal and Pop-Tarts toaster pastries that fall outside certain standards will either be reformulated or dropped from advertising that reaches audiences where at least half of the people are under age 12.
The change comes after parents and advocacy groups worried about child obesity threatened a lawsuit.
The announcement pleased the head of an advocacy group that had joined with others in early 2006 to seek legal action against Kellogg.
"Kellogg has vaulted over the rest of the food industry," said Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The company's new standard calls for a serving of a product to contain no more than 200 calories, have no trans fat and no more than 2 grams of saturated fat, have no more than 230 milligrams of
sodium and have no more than 12 grams of sugar.
One-third of the cereals that Kellogg markets to children in the U.S. fall outside those standards, said Mark Baynes, chief marketing officer. Most cereals fall inside the calorie guideline, he said, but meeting the sugar and sodium standards could be the most challenging.
David Mackay, Kellogg's president and chief executive, said the company is taking action because of increasing concerns about marketing to children. Of Kellogg's U.S. advertising spending, 27 percent is directed to children under 12.
The company also plans to make immediate changes to its Web sites for children, including automatic screen time limits and information about healthy lifestyles and nutrition. It also said it will limit images of foods in computer games, downloads and wallpaper that don't meet the new criteria.
Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg also is adding nutritional information to the front of its cereal boxes in North America. The summary "Guideline Daily Amounts" is designed to provide a snapshot of how the food fits into a proper diet.