From time to time I like to remind clients of specific network guidelines to keep in mind when developing advertising. One such guideline involves the advertising of food.


According to the network guidelines, advertising may not overstate the nutritional value of foods. Use of words such as “nutritious” or “healthy” must be substantiated and may not be used to exaggerate or distort the value of the food.  Health and energy claims for foods and food ingredients will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Such claims must be fully substantiated and put in the context of a total diet.  All food advertising must comply with the provisions of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 (NLEA).


Nutrition Information Claims

A.  Nutrient content descriptors (e.g., “low fat,” “calorie-free,” “good source,” “reduced,” and “light”) must comply with the applicable NLEA definitions for those terms.

B.  Foods advertised as meal substitutes are considered on a case-by-case basis and evaluated from the perspective of the completeness of the nutrition provided.  Unless the food provides the nutritional equivalent of a balanced meal, food advertised as a meal substitute:

  1. May only be presented as an occasional replacement for meals when a person is unable to eat properly; and
  2. May not be positioned as a permanent part of the daily diet.

C.  Food possessing reduced or low levels of an ingredient should not be advertised to suggest that the food can be consumed in large amounts without consequences.   Any implication of immoderate consumption is not acceptable.

Health Claims

A.  Overly broad health or nutritional benefit claims are not permitted.

  1. Claims that distort the importance of a food or a food ingredient or suggest an advantage beyond what exists are unacceptable.
  2. Unless substantiated, implying that one individual food is more important than other dietary components is not permitted.

B.  Health claims will not be acceptable in those instances where a product possesses both healthy and unhealthy components which bear on the claim being made (e.g., a product containing no cholesterol cannot advertise itself as healthy or helping to prevent heart disease when the product is also high in sodium).

C.  Claims suggesting that the consumption of food or food ingredients will result in mental and/or physical enhancement are unacceptable unless substantiated.

The networks have specific policies regarding the advertising of food. So, if you have plans to create advertising which features food, make sure the advertising complies with the network guidelines.  And remember, when it doubt, ask questions.

Marilyn Colaninno is Director of Rights and Clearances for Reed Smith and is responsible for clearing commercials for the firm’s many clients in the advertising industry. If you have specific questions, please contact Marilyn directly at 212-549-0347 or at