Cereal Suspicions

October 26, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
A new report on a massive marketing effort aimed at kids is casting suspicions on cereal manufacturers.-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
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Before the average American child even reaches kindergarten, according to the new report from Yale University, they're seeing 642 cereal ads year. The vast majority of them for sugared cereals.

The report lists the ten least nutritional cereals and showing that these are the brands that get the heaviest marketing push.

"If one looks at the rank order list of the worst nutrition cereals it's stunning how the worst cereals are marketed so aggressively to children," said Kelly Brownell with the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity.

And it's not just on Saturday morning TV anymore. Makers of sugared cereals have developed slick websites with games, music and cartoons.

Which suck children into an entire world controlled by the brand?

All of it, says study author Kelly Brownell, is feeding America's growing childhood obesity epidemic.

Some scientists have speculated that the current generation of children will be the first in the nation's history to lead shorter lives than their parents did.

They live in a toxic food and physical activity environment , something needs to change pretty boldly in order to account for this.

"Kids today, and this is your term, live in a toxic food environment?" asked Dan Harris.

"The word toxic is strong, but I think is justified here," said Brownell.

Three years ago, the industry announced with some fanfare that it would police itself by setting new standards for the way it markets food for kids. But the new report says the system is not working.

"If you take the top 10 cereals that have the worst nutrition ratings, every one is considered by industry a better for you food, because they have set the standards that they then meet," said Brownell, "It's a demonstrable failure".

"I think he's demonstrably wrong in drawing that conclusion," said Elaine Kalish. Kalish oversees the industry's self-regulation initiative.

"So Fruit Loops, Captain Crunch, Cocoa Puffs, these are all better for you cereals, you think?" Asked Harris. "They are. These cereals because of the initiative and the nutrition standards that companies have adopted have been reformulated as necessary to reduce their sugar content or their sodium content or their fat content so that they meet these standards," said Kalish.

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