A consumer advocacy group said Thursday it is dropping plans to sue Kellogg Co. after the cereal and snack company announced it will boost the nutritional value of its products and alter its advertising campaigns for kids.

'This commitment means that parents will find it a little easier to steer their children toward healthy food choices.'—Michael F. Jacobson, Center for Science in the Public Interest

The Michigan-based company said Thursday it has developed new criteria for its web, TV, radio, and print campaigns for children in an attempt to help parents make healthy food choices.

Products involved in children-centred marketing must now contain no more than 200 calories per single serving, have a maximum two grams of saturated fat and no trans fat. The cereals and snacks must also have no more than 230 milligrams of sodium and 12 grams of sugar per serving.

The U.S.-based Center for Science in the Public Interest applauded the new measures and withdrew their threatto sue Kellogg and the Nickelodeon cable TV network. The group, along with the Campaign For A Commercial-Free Childhood, had planned to sue the companies saying they were targeting children with junk food commercials.

"This commitment means that parents will find it a little easier to steer their children toward healthy food choices — especially if other food manufacturers and broadcasters follow Kellogg's lead," said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Nutrition information to be featured on front of packages

Nutrition information on calories, total fat, sodium and sugar will be spotlighted on the front of the boxes on Kellogg's products in Canada. The new summaries, a complement to the nutrition facts on the back of the box, are used in Europe and Australia.

"Around the world, Kellogg continues to play an active role in helping consumers successfully manage both sides of the calories in-calories out equation through product choices, nutrition education, community programs and partnerships promoting the importance of a balanced diet and physical activity," said François Rouilly, Kellogg Canada president and chief executive officer, in a release issued Thursday.

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David Mackay, Kellogg's president and chief executive, said in a statement Thursday that the company was taking 'steps to address increasing concerns about marketing to children and further strengthen our commitment to responsible marketing.' ((Ford Motor Co./Associated Press))

The company said Thursday that about 50 per cent of its products, including Pop Tarts and Froot Loops, will have to be reformulated to meet the new criteria. If the products cannot be changed, they'll no longer be featured in ads for kids, the company said.

Kellogg officials also said they will not advertise in schools with students under the age of 12 or use branded toys to promote foods to kids that don't meet the new nutrition criteria.

The company also said it would restrict use of licensed charactersto foods that meet the nutrition criteria.

Companies pledge to promote healthy lifestyles to children

In April, a group of food companies, including Hershey, McDonald's, PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Ltd., said Monday they would use half of their advertising to promote healthy eating and active living among children.

Rising obesity levels among children are a concern for public health officials in North America. In March, the House of Commons standing committee on health released a report that noted that childhood and adolescent overweight and obesity rates have spiked over the past three decades.

In 2004, 18 per cent of children and adolescents were overweight and eight per cent were obese, the report said.

With files from the Associated Press