The nation’s largest food companies say they will cut back on marketing unhealthful foods to children, proposing their own set of advertising standards after rejecting similar guidelines proposed by the federal government.

A coalition of food companies — including General Mills, ConAgra Foods and Kellogg — said the effort will vastly change what is advertised, forcing them to curb advertising on one out of three products currently marketed to children.

The new standards, which will allow companies to advertise food and beverage products to children if they meet certain nutritional criteria, could force some brands to change recipes to include less sodium, fat, sugar and calories. While many companies have trumpeted their own efforts to market more-healthful foods to kids, the agreement would apply the same standards to all of the participating companies.

The group’s proposal was pushed along by a government effort to curtail certain marketing practices.

The Federal Trade Commission and several other agencies were directed by Congress to come up with voluntary guidelines for marketing junk food to children, and those were issued earlier this year. The industry balked, saying the voluntary standards were too broad and would limit marketing of almost all of the nation’s favorite foods, including some yogurts and many children’s cereals.

The proposal issued by the government is stricter than the standards the companies are pushing for themselves. The industry guidelines for children’s cereals, for example, would allow them to be advertised if they have around 10 grams of sugar per serving, while the formula used by the government would discourage advertising for cereals with eight grams of sugar per serving.

Still, FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz praised the industry guidelines when they were announced and said the government would consider the food companies’ initiative as the government develops its own standards.

— Associated Press