Forget cereal for the children’s breakfasts. Just bring out the sugar bowl. Maybe add a few vitamins. Better yet, give them Twinkies. Save dollars by not buying what is essentially crunchy candy.
Just in time to reassure parents the food industry truly is concerned about children’s health, in spite of their unwillingness to even consider voluntary guidelines, the Environmental Working Group has published a review of 84 cereal brands marketed to children.
The winner of the anti-children’s-health competition is Kellogg’s Honey Smacks. With sugar content a whopping 56% by weight, “a one-cup serving of the brand packs more sugar than a Hostess Twinkie, and one cup of any of the 44 other children’s cereals has more sugar than three Chips Ahoy! cookies.”
No wonder the food industry is dragging its feet on even the modest guidelines the Interagency Working Group on Food Marketed to Children is trying to implement. After all, the working group’s goal is to try to reach agreement on two nutrition principles for food marketed to children. The first is to encourage children to eat fresh, whole foods. The second is to reduce sugar, fat and salt in foods advertised specifically to children. Neither fits the cereal-makers’ agenda.
Since most of the cereals on EWG’s list would not meet the proposed guidelines, the food industry is understandably reluctant to embrace them. The top ten sugar-loaded cereals are manufactured by three of the largest companies: Kellogg’s, Post and Quaker Oats. Post has only one of the ten, but Golden Crisp makes up for that with a 51.9% share of sugar by weight.
Marion Nestle, NYU nutrition professor, says
The cereals on the EWG highest-sugar list are among the most profitable for their makers, who back up their investment with advertising budgets of $20 million a year or more. No public health agency has anywhere near the education budget equivalent to that spent on a single cereal. Kids should not be eating sugar for breakfast. They should be eating real food.
Companies spending millions to persuade children to ask for cereals with heavy sugar content profit through undermining children’s health. They contribute to the epidemic of childhood obesity and early-onset Type2 diabetes, not to mention diet-related cancers and heart disease.
Too many lawmakers and lobbyists cry “nanny state” any time the question of regulating this kind of appalling corporate behavior comes up. The real “nanny state” is a corporate sector that pretends to be looking after our welfare while at the same time slyly doing its best to ensure they do not have to pay the cost they inflict on our health care systems.
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Photo from Horia Varlan via Flickr Creative Commons
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