The Government: Cereal Killers!
I opened up the business section of the paper Sunday and found this article: A battle builds over breakfast | StarTribune.com.
The story is about a government effort to kick Lucky the Leprechaun, Captain Crunch and other sugar cereal mascots to the curb unless cereal makers cut down even more on the sugar and salt in cereal.
The feds really think this will help solve the childhood obesity issue in America? Is sugar cereal really that big of a threat to our children that it’s in need of a government smack down?
Let’s get real. General Mills and Kellogg’s aren’t forcing anyone to buy these products. We, as consumers, need to take responsibility for our actions. And the little kids, who these mascots seem to influence, aren’t the ones at the register paying for this stuff. It’s the parents.
“Hello mom and dad, if your kid wants Lucky Charms, guess what? You can say no!”
And it’s a great opportunity to show them the label, compare it to a healthier cereal and talk about why you are choosing another breakfast option. Maybe your kids can earn their favorite sugary cereal as a special treat. Or maybe this is good practice for parents to learn how to say no, because more serious issues are going to present themselves as their kids grow older.
I’ve taken many strolls down the cereal aisle with my kids and heard, “Please can I have Cookie Crisp, Lucky Charms, or Fruit Loops.” Sometimes, I say yes. Sometimes, I say no. I’m certainly not cursing the mascot or the cute boxes for making my kids want this stuff. I grew up with it too. Tony the Tiger and Frosted Flakes were a family favorite. And what’s interesting is how many times they said sugar in this commercial. It was actually a selling point!
Despite eating frosted flakes on too many occasions to count, I turned out okay.
I believe, cereal is the least of our worries. And my favorite quote from the article is from the General Mills Spokesman, ” If the issue is obesity, we should be advertising more cereal to kids, not less”.
Is the government going to cancel Halloween next? My kids come home with so much candy every year it’s a joke. Or maybe they’ll target the Easter Bunny and eliminate the Peeps.
I am a parent, not a nutritionist, but I would venture to say there are fewer vitamins and minerals in candy than in cereal. And I would much rather have my kids snack on cereal than a candy bar.
Both General Mills and Kellogg’s have already made progress cutting sugar and salt in their products and this was through self-regulation. It only benefits them in the health conscious society. But it also has to be cost-effective. Who wants to pay 5 dollars for a box of cereal?
The bigger issue, in my eyes is TV, computer and video games. Kids aren’t playing outside as much. They’re getting home from school and sitting their butts down in front of screen, which is a much more dangerous habit than a bowl of Cocoa Puffs a day.
Let’s work on creative ways to get kids moving. And if these cereal characters and marketing campaigns are as influential as the government makes them out to be, partly to blame for making kids fat, then surely their influence could be used in other ways.
Instead of burying Count Chocula, Silly Rabbit and the rest of the cereal gang, let’s put them to work inspiring kids to get active.
Would love to hear what you think? No need to sugar coat your opinions here.
I am with you on this one. When I read the article yesterday I thought it was so ridiculous. Aren’t there more harmful things to kids that breakfast cereal? If they regulate cereal won’t they pretty much have to regulate everything? One can of Mountain Dew has 46 grams of sugar compared to 12 grams of sugar in 1 cup of Fruit Loops. Are they kidding here? Where is the logic? I wonder how much money it cost the government to do that study. Enough said.
According to a USDA report: Desserts, pizza and soda are the largest sources of calories for kids. Cereal ranked 10th! Good question about the cost of the study. Don’t know.
Nice post honey! I couldn’t agree more! FYI, Brent just ate a whole box of cereal!
Thank you. Kids eat a ton of Cheerios and they are not cheap.
Lori I agree with most of what you say here but you also said to provide opinions so sorry in advance, I have a lot on this topic!
First of all I should say I have not read the article “A battle builds over breakfast” yet.
My first question is, why do we need cartoon characters on food?…to get kids to eat it? What kind of messages are we sending or standards are we setting I wonder, (at an early age no doubt,) if our food only seems appealing or our choices are based on the ones with a character or prize? Because characters are fun, it’s tradition? Eating your favorite foods with a parent or sibling can be fun and create traditions as well, I don’t feel like we need a character on the front influencing that decision. I guess I don’t buy into this whole marketing idea that there needs to be special food for kids in all different shapes and colors especially when they are heavy in sugar, salt and additives (because that is what kids like right…because of why?….hmmm)
If we the adults are ultimately the deciders of the food we purchase why are food companies spending millions of dollars to market to us, the adults, using cartoon characters? Because they aren’t and they know that. Kids are inundated with advertising and marketing from all sources and the food companies know that it does indeed work to market to kids for multiple reasons. I would rather them put that money into making a quality product and bringing down the price (you noted you wouldn’t want to spend $5 for cereal) than putting it into marketing with characters.
And this is before I say anything about what is in these cereals! I believe sugar is a problem, a big one! The recommended sugar intake for kids per day is 3 teaspoons (12 grams). Here is an interesting comparison from Andy Bellatti’s, MS, RD blog between Twix and Twizzlers. A 1-cup, 30 gram (just slightly over 1 ounce) serving of Twix provides: 120 calories, 1.5 grams fat,180 milligrams sodium, 10 grams sugar (2.5 teaspoons) 1 gram fiber,1 gram protein. An ounce of Twizzlers provides: 95 calories, 0.6 grams fat, 74 milligrams sodium, 0 grams fiber, 13.25 grams sugar (3.25 teaspoons), 0.6 grams protein. Those numbers are pretty close but most parents wouldn’t give their kids candy for breakfast…because well, its candy.
I think we need to look at it, big picture. If kids are starting their day with a sugary cereal, is the rest of their eating for the day heavy in vegetables, fruit, whole grains & real & unprocessed food…no other ‘junk’ food or drinks? What is the sugar total for the whole day, or week, or month? It adds up. Sugar is addicting. The more we have, the more we tend to want. There are numerous studies and data out there showing that excess sugar does affect how kids think and how it is contributing to obesity and other diseases. It is the accumulation of all of the seemingly ‘little bits’ of sugar, salt and artificial ingredients in one food times 10 or more in a kids day that is the problem. And as parents it is hard to sift through the barrage of health information & misinformation out there and we want to just trust what they tell us on the front of the cereal boxes. Unfortunately it is the stuff they aren’t telling us that has a much greater affect on our kids overall health! That is my 2 cents or maybe more like 11 cents worth, no sugar coating!
Ps: I just listened to lectures from Marion Nestle of Food Politics and Michele Simon of Appetite for Profit. Both have eye opening and thought provoking information on this topic.
correction: opps, obviously i meant Trix not Twix. And I think it has more like 14 grams of sugar not 10. 🙂
Lisa.. thank you so much for leaving such detailed comments. I agree that companies should not be allowed to make misleading claims about the nutrients in their products. And that to me, should be monitored and enforced by the government.
However, I do think companies have the right to sell these products and market however they would like as long as it’s not misleading.
Bottom line is: in a capitalistic society, if people stop buying it, they’ll stop making it or they’ll change the recipe.
We buy 5-6 boxes of cheerios at our house for every 1 box of sugar cereal. And I would much prefer my kids eat cereal for breakfast or lunch than a muffin or chips!
Do you think the issue is, parents are buying these cereals because they “think” they are healthier than they really are? The boxes all have labels, but maybe sugar and salt content needs to be on the front of the box. Would that help ease your concerns?
Great post, Iryanis. It does bring up some questions, for sure.
I absolutely think parents buy these cereals because they think they are healthier than they really are. The big food industry is about selling food.
I recently discovered Bruce Bradley’s blog about the food industry marketing food to kids. Bruce was a marketing executive in the big food industry for over a decade. I don’t know how to leave links in comments, but you might want to check out his blog at http://www.brucebradley.com/ He’s got one up right now called Marketing to Kids: Collateral Damage in Big Food’s Profit Hunt. In it, he discusses the breakfast battle over cereals.
That being said, we, as parents, certainly have the ultimate responsibility in what we allow to reach our kids’ mouths. When my kids were little and asked for Cocoa Puffs, I always told them, “Sure. We can have a few for dessert tonight, because they sure as heck aren’t anything fit to eat for a meal.” We still have the occasional Apple Jack or Sugar Pop stray through the house, but they aren’t staples. I have to believe that parents often don’t have the time and energy to get past the advertising to know what’s actually in that box, though.
Thanks for a thoughtful blog.
Appreciate your perspective, Piper.
What I am hearing from you and some others is a two-fold issue.
One: Cereal Company advertising makes certain cereals very attractive to kids. They remember the characters or commercials and that’s what they beg to buy.
Two: When the kids ask for the cereal, parents are saying yes, because they are led to believe it’s a healthier choice than it actually is.
To me, the bigger issue is possible misleading information about the nutritional value of the cereal. If that’s the case, I believe the government needs to crack down. When it says Whole Grain on the front of the box does that send out a signal of “healthy”? I do believe companies are looking for ways to make their products more healthy as long as it’s cost effective. They stand to gain huge rewards and huge business if they can come up with the secret recipe for a healthy, tasty cereal.
As for marketing to kids, subliminal messages and so forth:
If it is as powerful as some think it is… I see this as a huge opportunity to reach and teach kids about tolerance, problem solving and other life long values and skills. So much for selling kids cereal. Let’s use the medium to help kids grow up to be better, stronger people. Maybe Captain Crunch can talk about lifting others up by making them feel good about themselves. Or Silly Rabbit can talk about the ability to laugh at yourself or how to deal with things when they don’t go your way.
Appreciate the open discussion. Will definitely check out Bruce Bradley’s blog. Thanks for the suggestion.
Hello admin, your website is incredible i know very useful tool for every site
admin (for content creation and SEO). Just search in google for: