Kellogg strikes again


A few months back I posted on how the Kellogg Company had been elevated into the pantheon of the “world’s most ethical companies,’ at least according to Ethisphere Magazine, a rag dedicated to rating such things. I noted at the time that I thought it strange that a company devoted to the provisioning of children with sugar-laden junk foods of one sort or another would be deemed ‘ethical’ by anyone. In my view it was kind of like saying the Gestapo were ethical because they took good care of their employees.

A month or so after I posted my comments the New York Times came out with a piece about how the Kellogg Company was trying to clean up its act by stopping its television advertising many of its most sugar and crap laden products to children.

The Kellogg Company said yesterday that it would phase out advertising its products to children under age 12 unless the foods meet specific nutrition guidelines for calories, sugar, fat and sodium.

Kellogg also announced that it would stop using licensed characters or branded toys to promote foods unless the products meet the nutrition guidelines.

The voluntary changes, which will be put in place over the next year and a half, will apply to about half of the products that Kellogg currently markets to children worldwide, including Froot Loops and Apple Jacks cereals and Pop-Tarts.

As the article goes on it becomes clear that the folks at Kellogg’s are not making these changes out of the milk of human kindness nor even from some kind of sense of responsibility or concern about the health of the nation’s youth, but out of fear of lawsuits. In fact the Kellogg Company made the changes to thwart a lawsuit that was in the process of being filed.

What nutritional guidelines is Kellogg adhering to as its cutoff for selling products to kids?

Under the new standards, one serving of food must have no more than 200 calories, no trans fat, no more than 2 grams of saturated fat, no more than 230 milligrams of sodium (except for Eggo frozen waffles) and no more than 12 grams of sugar.

frootloopsstraws2.jpgNow let’s take a look at what our friends at Kellogg’s have done with this. They’ve come up with Froot Loops Cereal Straws. It’s not enough that kids eat bowl after bowl of nasty, sugar-filled cereal, the Kellogg Company wants them to suck their milk through sugary straws coated with icing that they can eat after the milk is gone. The idea is that drinking through these straws makes the milk taste like that left in the bottom of the bowl after all the Froot Loops cereal is eaten. Mmm, mmm. We just can’t give the little buggers enough sugar.

Take a look at what these lovely little straws are made of:


And when we take a look at the Nutrition Facts for these babies we find that a serving is 3 straws and contains 12 grams of sugar, 2 grams of saturated fat, and fewer than 230 grams of sodium in 140 calories. Looks suspiciously close to me to the limits of the self-imposed (or, more accurately, the fear of lawsuits imposed) nutritional guidelines.

I couldn’t bring myself to spring for the small amount it would take to buy these, but I found a couple of people who did.

This reviewer wasn’t all that impressed:

Upon perforating one of the two packages, the perfume of fake fruit and powdered milk permeated the air and tempted the taste buds (try to say that without sounding like Daffy Duck, I dare you). There’s something about unabashedly artificial flavoring that’s both charming and nostalgic…sexual, even. Alright, maybe not sexual, but something pleasant nonetheless. The straws were thinner than what the box indicated, looking more like real straws than giant-sized novelty pens [How many kids will stop at just 3, the single serving size?]. They are lined in the middle with that sickly sweet powdered milk that seems to be popping up in granola and cereal bars everywhere. Someone needs to tell these guys that it does NOT replace milk and that we can all tell it’s just sweetened coffee creamer. Fortunately, the flavor of that is masked by the Froot Loop shell.

The straws themselves are rather sturdy and hold up well to milk. They last a long time without getting soggy and do actually work as straws. They basically taste like Froot Loops, which is all you could realistically hope for. Sadly, the cereal straws live in a paradoxical existence; humans cannot eat and drink at the same time. Well…I guess soup makes us do that, but let’s ignore that for a second.

Once you take a single bite of the cereal straw, it becomes too short for drinking and the fun immediately dissipates. If you just sit there and drink the milk, you’ll just be wasting the straw as it imparts no flavor and is generally useless. Once you get to the bottom, you realize you have a half-soggy cereal straw with no milk to wash it down with.

Here’s another reviewer who even shows them on a video. He is late adolescent/early adult so we can get more of a kid’s eye view from him:

Froot Loops Cereal Straws are so damn good. Screw the milk. They’re just like wafer cookies with the frosting in the middle! I even got creative and decided to suck some Monster M-80 with one since they’re all citrus flavored (color means nothing they’re all the same flavor really) and it was actually pretty damn good!

And to complete the picture, here is Kellogg’s website ad for these straws. As you can see, it is designed not only for children but for their parents with the message that Froot Loops Cereal Straws will encourage your kids to drink more milk. What goes unmentioned, however, is the metabolic effect of the 3 teaspoons of sugar (12 grams) in the 3 straws. When you consider that most kids probably eat a bowl or two of sweetened cereal along with their glass of milk, you realize that they are more often than not consuming somewhere in the neighborhood of 16-20 teaspoons (about a quarter of a cup) of pure sugar to start their mornings. Is it any wonder that childhood obesity is running rampant.

Thanks, Kellogg, for caring so much about our kids.

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24 thoughts on “Kellogg strikes again

  1. Mike, what about that other commercial where a woman says ‘whole grain… what a great idea…”, a man says “it’s good for my heart…” and yet another woman says “I feel good giving this to my family…”

    It looks that ‘big cereal’ are united on the same front of misinformation, and not noting that would be just like the person in the commercial for “Smart” cereal says… “how dumb of me…”

    How dumb indeed.

  2. At least it doesn’t claim to be “healthy” on the box – just FUN. There’s a whole aisle of so-called “healthy” snack bars in my grocery store. Every single one of them are loaded with sugars and carbs. But they are “whole grain” and “low fat” and they are “organic” and other such nonsense. Glorified candy bars and cookies one and all.

    One and all. Organic high-carb crap is still high-carb, tooth-rotting, insulin-raising, pancreas-damaging crap.

  3. Well all I can say is that I successfully removed all cereals from my home. My 11 year old daughter has been enjoying breakfast consisting of eggs, bacon, sausages, cheese and fruit and has all but forgotten that cereals still exist.
    But not her friends, some of them eat cereals for breakfast AND lunch.

    A wise move on your part. I’m sure it wasn’t without a fight at first.

  4. Wow! 24g of carbs and add 13g of carbs for 8 oz of milk. That’s 31g of carbs. What a deal! I won’t have to eat anything more until the next morning. Think of the money I will save on my food bill!
    Just goes to show that the big food producers are just like big pharma. They don’t care what they do to peoples health as long as the money keeps rolling in!

    You got it.

  5. I used to eat cereal all the time thinking it was good for me. And I used to wonder why I developed insulin resistance before I was even 20. It’s maddening.

    Just don’t blame Toucan Sam. He’s so cute. I feel sorry for him. I imagine him complaining that he’s really killing the children, but they make him do the ads anyway.

  6. Here’s a fun way to right the cosmos:

    A cook friend of mine was talking to a culinary student who was searching for a project for a test. The idea: bacon straws. You wrap bacon around a chopstick and deep fry it. In lard I hope.

    Deelish for drinking your morning tomato juice or Bloody Mary.

    And the student got an A.

    Sounds great. The student gets an A in my book too. I read MD this comment, and she’s hot to make them. I (or she) will post with photos if she does.

  7. Hi Doc–aside from the fact that they will make kids fat and diabetic, rot their teeth, and contribute to behavior and developmental problems, don’t parents realize what a ripoff breakfast cereals are from a financial standpoint? Why on earth would a family pay 4.50 or 5 bucks for a few cents’ worth of sugar, white flour, and vegetable oil? You can get 2 dozen cage free eggs for that amount if you shop around.

    You’re right on the money.

  8. I never bought these sugary Kellogg’s or General Mills kinds of popular cereals for my son (in fact, my mother never bought those for me, either). But for a number of years I did buy Joe’s Os and similar “healthy” cereals from Trader Joe’s (fairly simple ingredient list, as low sugar as I could find, whole grain, etc.).

    I can understand why parents love cold cereal for their kids. It is one of the first foods that a kid can fix him/herself. That aspect, regardless of the cereal content, is very seductive. I tried to limit his consumption, but if I wasn’t monitoring it, he would sometimes feed himself cold cereal several times a day.

    But I changed my tune last spring when I did a home version of a glucose tolerance test on myself with a measured amount of Joe’s Os (TJ version of Cheerios and milk = 75 gms CHO and got my highest glucose test level ever (250 range in 45 minutes followed by a nasty low) from food (outside of a lab test). It’s essentially predigested sugar, whole grain notwithstanding. No more commercial cold cereals in our house, period.

    But what to fix instead? I’ve experimented with making baked granola, heavy on the nuts, sesame seeds, coconut oil & flakes, and light on the oats, with mixed success (he eats it but likes it less, so I guess that is a success because he isn’t tempted to overconsume it).

    Breakfast is the hardest meal for me to resolve with him. His preferences run to high carb foods and I am always trying to moderate that. He resists having eggs over-easy or scrambled more than twice a week. I get around that by making “French Toast Frittata”, with 2-3 eggs & milk with 2 slices TJ sprouted whole wheat bread torn up and soaked, cooked in lots of butter (makes 2-3 kid-size servings). Sort of like pan-cooked bread pudding, with a high egg to bread ratio. He gets about 1 or 2 teaspoons of real maple syrup and a pat of butter on top, too and often some fresh fruit.

    And that means I am cooking rather than him fixing something for himself. I guess it’s time to start the cooking lessons.
    But I find the “what to feed the kid” issues so much harder than what to feed myself. My gut instinct is that the fewer sugars and grains for him the better (for lots of reasons), but it’s hard to actually put that into practice to the level I would like without a battle.

    Hi Anna–

    I think you’ve captured the problem perfectly. It’s a battle between doing what’s right for your kids – which takes a lot of effort on the parent’s part – or doing what is easiest – which is to give in and let them have what they want. The cereal companies make it easy to give in guiltlessly because they all tout the nutritional advantages ” fortified with all the vitamins and minerals your kids need to start their day” of their wretched products.

    If someone could come up with a high-protein (and I mean high-protien, not what passes for high-protein among cereal makers), good quality fat, low-carb, tasty breakfast cereal that kids liked, that person could retire early.


  9. Thanks for this one Dr. Mike. I don’t think there are any adjectives in the English language sufficient to describe a business model that would result in this kind of product being made and marketed to anyone (let alone children). The words corrupt, malevolent, or immoral just don’t seem strong enough.

    I hate to have to say it, but health care professionals, nutritionists and the government all have a lot to answer for here. They are supposed to protect the public against these kinds of hazards and most of them don’t seem to have a clue. I’m hoping against hope that Gary T’s new book will eventually tip the balance.


    Hi Wil–

    I’m hoping Gary’s book will help.


  10. This post triggered a random, fun memory: my little brother and I used to buy that mile-long shoe string licorice, bite off each end, and suck our Pepsi through it. We were such sugar junkies. I think I’ve had every sugar cereal ever produced.

  11. And we wonder why there are SOOOO many kids on ritalin and other “wonder drugs” for hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders. Gee, parents, what about NOT feeding your kids sugar first thing in the morning with NO protein to speak of to counteract any of it?

  12. As for alternatives to what to feed the kiddies for breakfast, I missed that boat almost entirely. I was too carb saturated to even make the effort to feed them good stuff so early in the morning; besides, it was good for them, right? However, I learned a lot as my older ones went to high school. It was still to late to convert them to non-cereal, but I did make some headway. My strategies: lots of bacon. If you have good bacon, most kids love it. Also I did pain perdue, frech toast that is completely soaked in custard. Heavy on the butter, light on the syrup. Homemade egg custard using heavy cream instead of milk is simple to make and most kids love that, or don’t cook it and give them a “milkshake” for breakfast. Add fruit as your conscience dictates. Cups of custard last a week in the fridge and are self serve.

    I hope this helps someone else with kids and teens.


  13. One of the fastest and easiest things to make for breakfast for kids is omelets full of cheese, feta cheese, curry, bacon, sausages, other sliced meats, onions, peppers, whatever. Another favorite was a home made MacMuffin made with 2 small slices of sour rye, one fried egg, tons of bacon, lots of cheese. If they don’t like eggs they won’t even notice there’s an egg in there. I remember taking my son on vacation and we stopped at Denny’s for lunch. Guess what he ordered? He was 6 at the time. A three egg omelet. His choice not mine.

    A bright kid indeed.

  14. I forgot to mention that my son is now 27 and although he is on his own and eating crap most of the time he’s never had a cavity and his bones are made of steel and he’s never been sick. He’s back to eating low-carb though because he knows it works and he was starting to put on some weight.

    I guess he’s still a smart boy.

  15. And I’m the only one that thought there was a scary yet albeit funny reference to snorting coke with how that cereal straw ad started? Ironic too, not 😉

    I didn’t notice. But, then again, I wouldn’t.


  16. This probably sounds absurd, but I’ve been feeding my kids Ice Cream for breakfast lately. Low carb Breyers or homemade.

    Between that and the bacon & sausages, they’re getting a lot more protein & fat and a ton less carbs than the average breakfast cereal. They’re not allowed any fruit until they’ve had some fat & protein.

    On the plus side, they get to tell all their friends that they’re getting Ice Cream for breakfast.

    On the minus side, I’m not crazy about the dairy. And they hate eggs in any form except deviled. We go through tons of deviled eggs!