CORRECTED-(OFFICIAL)-U.S. health watchdog objects to Kraft Heinz ads targeting healthy foods (March 24)

(Corrects paragraph 2 in March 24 story after CSPI said it filed a complaint with the CARU unit of the BBB National Programs, not the Better Business Bureau)

March 24 (Reuters) - A U.S. consumer advocacy group has filed a complaint against food and beverage major Kraft Heinz Co for disparaging healthy foods including broccoli, salmon and tofu in its advertisements from recent years.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) said on Wednesday it had filed the complaint to the Children’s Advertising Review Unit (CARU) of the BBB National Programs, a self-regulatory advertising industry agency, alleging the ads violated established guidelines.

CARU’s guidelines state that advertising of food products should “encourage responsible use of the product with a view toward healthy development of the child”. It also says that such advertisements should not “discourage or disparage healthy lifestyle choices or the consumption of fruits or vegetables.”

Kraft Heinz, which is listed as a CARU supporter, did not immediately provide a comment.

In a letter accompanying the complaint, the health watchdog said a Kraft Macaroni & Cheese ad here from 2019 that shows a child running away from a forkful of vegetables, yelling "no", and then being pacified by a macaroni and cheese bowl, with the ad ending with the tagline "win-win".

The macaroni-and-cheese ad was repeatedly shown on children’s networks including Disney XD, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network in 2019, according to CSPI.

The group said Kraft Heinz was no longer airing this particular ad on children’s television, but alleged disparagement of healthy foods continued to be a theme in the company’s advertising.

The CSPI also pointed to the company's Ore-Ida french fries ad here from 2018, which it said violated guidelines, as it encouraged parents to bribe their children with french fries to get them to eat healthy foods.

The health watchdog urged CARU to review Kraft Heinz’s advertising practices even as it acknowledged that the company was planning to discontinue these ads later this year. (Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; Editing by Ramakrishnan M.)