Motivated by the triple threat of bad publicity, tougher regulation and costly lawsuits, some of the country's biggest food companies have curtailed child-targeted advertising of certain high-calorie products.
No longer does Kraft play its classic jingle that a "kid'll eat the middle of an Oreo first," at least not during programs for children. Hershey's and Mars have pulled candy pitches to the under-12 crowd.
Other companies are emphasizing baked versions of old fried favorites. Or reformulating the foodstuffs, reducing sodium in some varieties of Lunchables and lowering sugar and fat in cereals such as Spider-Man 3.
No less than fast-food giant McDonald's now offers sliced apples and 1 percent milk as options in its Happy Meals. And Disney, which is putting iconic characters such as Mickey Mouse on milk, fruits and vegetables, has gone still further at its California and Florida theme parks. There, meals for children come with a health drink and fruit or veggie side unless diners ask to substitute soda and fries.
. . . "Compared to where we were just two years ago, the progress has been epochal, huge," said Stephen Gardner, who heads litigation at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. "The fact that companies are agreeing to stop marketing their junkiest foods to the youngest people is incredible."