Thursday, June 14, 2007

"they're (not so) grrrreat"

Does 'Big Cereal's self-regulation mean anything?

According to published reports, cereal giant Kellogg is voluntarily phasing out advertising to kids under age 12 unless and until the foods meet certain nutrition guidelines. They have also agreed to stop licensing popular advertising characters connected to the affected products.

Is this a step in the right direction? Maybe, but it seems a little silly to me.

Anyone who’s read about the dangers of processed foods knows that breakfast foods like Pop Tarts and Froot Loops are not good for you, even as part of a “balanced breakfast.” And we all know that kids are gullible. I know I would try to stick everything in the supermarket cart I saw on Saturday morning cartoons (Remember those? Where have they gone?)


Unlike with similar initiatives aimed at the tobacco and cigarette industry, the target market is not easily able to go buy (or have someone buy them) the product. Your five-year-old will beg and scream for Corn Pops, but it’s not like he can drive himself to Kroger and stock up.

Parents are buying this crap for their kids. Taking the commercials off cartoon broadcasts doesn’t mean anything if the parent goes and buys it for them anyway. And part of the reason that kids are so overweight and obese these days is because parents are enabling them with foods that are bad for them.

While it’s likely that some cereals and other products could be reformulated to be healthier, and hopefully they will be, by this intuitive, so much of what is going on is just window dressing.

Think about the kids menu at your favorite restaurant. Hot dogs, chicken nuggets, fries…none of this stuff is substantially healthier than a bowl of cereal (especially when studies have shown a link between increased levels of saturated fats in the body and the development of diabetes). But nobody (yet) has suggested that we take off the Oscar Meyer or Ore-Ida commercials.

Yes, I know it’s voluntary, but it’s a double standard, and in the media clip-entrenched world we live in, it makes something that (generally) does include some vitamins and minerals in its primary ingredients out to be the bad guy. Giving a kid another processed product in lieu of the suddenly evil cereal will not necessarily improve their health.

I guess my point is, what’s being done doesn’t hurt, but until an effort is done to make food healthier for all of us, especially kids, we’re really not doing anything special here by taking away Tony the Tiger.

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