Mixed Messages From Sugary Cereal Makers

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Photo by Clean Wal-Mart/Flickr CC


Kelly Brownell and his colleagues at the Rudd Center at Yale have produced another well researched--and in this case, gorgeously presented--report on the ways cereal companies market their products.

Even a quick look at its summary gives an unambiguous result: most of the marketing dollars are aimed at pushing sugary cereals at kids. Companies use TV and the Internet to push the least nutritious cereals.

None of this is particularly surprising but it's great to have the data. Information about marketing budgets for specific products is hard to get. It is easy to understand why companies would rather nobody knew how much they spent to get kids to pester their parents to buy Froot Loops or Cocoa Puffs.

Most troubling is the dual marketing. Advertising aimed at kids pushes sugar.  Advertising aimed at parents uses health claims and self-endorsements like the late (and not lamented) Smart Choices program I discussed in previous posts.

Companies may argue that sugary cereals are good because they encourage kids to drink milk, but the Rudd Center researchers also have shown that kids are happy to eat non-sweetened cereals  Furthermore, if they add their own sugar, they are putting in less than the cereal companies put in.

The bottom line: forget industry self-regulation. It doesn't work.

FDA: it's time to take on health claims.

Presented by

Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University. She is the author of Food Politics, Safe Food, What to Eat, and Pet Food Politics. More

Nestle also holds appointments as Professor of Sociology at NYU and Visiting Professor of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell. She is the author of three prize-winning books: Food Politics: How the Food Industry Influences Nutrition and Health (revised edition, 2007), Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety (2003), and What to Eat (2006). Her most recent book is Feed Your Pet Right: The Authoritative Guide to Feeding Your Dog and Cat. She writes the Food Matters column for The San Francisco Chronicle and blogs almost daily at Food Politics.

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