Kids’ Cereals Healthier, But Commercials Are Not

By Amir Khan on June 25, 2012 8:52 AM EDT

Fruit Loops
Kids' cereals are getting healthier, but according to a report by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, cereal ads aimed at kids overwhelmingly promote unhealthy products. (Photo: Creative Commons)

Kids' cereals are getting healthier, but according to a report by Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity, cereal ads aimed at kids overwhelmingly promote unhealthy products. Cereal makers are increasing fiber and whole grains in their cereals but still need to do more, the report says.

"It's not enough and the companies are still using all their marketing muscle to push their worst cereals on children," Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center, told Reuters.

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The "Cereal Facts" study offers an independent look at the industry and found that manufacturers spent $264 million advertising children's cereals in 2011 -- a 30 percent increase from 2008. Over that time, children's exposure to ads for fruit loops increased 79 percent, exposure to Reese's Puffs increased 55 percent and exposure to Pebbles was up 25 percent.

Cereal companies, however, defended their practices.

"Kellogg has a long-standing commitment to responsibly market foods that meet strict nutrition criteria to children ages 6 to 12," spokeswoman Kris Charles told Reuters.

In a statement, Post said it "continually works to address the nutritional make-up of our brands."

The Council of Better Business Bureaus' Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, a regulation program for food marketed to children made up of cereal makers such as Kellogg and General Mills, said the changing kids taste would take time.

"Rudd tends to look at the glass half empty. I look at it as half full and rising," said Elaine Kolish, director of CFBAI," told Reuters. "The notion that kids could stop eating Froot Loops and go and have Grape-Nuts, with all due respect to Grape-Nuts, to me is unrealistic and not practical."

Kolish said that before the CFBAI was founded, cereals typically had 15 or 16 grams of sugar per serving. Now, most have no more than 10. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends children have no more than 20 grams of sugar per day.

"Before they leave the house in the morning, children eating these pre-sweetened cereals will have consumed as much sugar as they should eat in an entire day," the USDA says.            

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