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Sugary cereals: Time for industry to do the right thing for kids

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 08-Dec-2011

Kellogg’s Honey Smacks is not marketed to children, a company spokesperson told this publication yesterday. Really? Then what’s up with the big cartoon frog?

Lots of cereals marketed to children don’t measure up to standards intended to ensure better health for American kids, according to a report from the Environmental Working Group. Not surprising. But isn’t it time industry changed that?

Michelle Obama introduced her Let’s Move campaign in February 2010 to try and improve the health of American children, encompassing making healthy foods available to children and parents, nutrition education, and an increased focus on physical activity.

Industry welcomed the campaign with vigor.

No one forced industry to get behind the Let’s Move campaign – and I was among the first to applaud that decision – but now more than ever it’s a matter of credibility.

Despite its rhetoric, nearly two years on, many members of industry seem to spend more time fighting the very actions that could be taken in order to ‘go further, move faster’ to tackle childhood obesity.

Industry hails formulation tweaks on the one hand, while on the other fights efforts to allow our kids to grow up before they have to deal with corporate marketing. And it seems to be working. Federal agencies behind proposed voluntary guidelines on marketing foods and beverages to children backed away from some of their earlier recommendations, responding to industry concerns.

As for that cartoon frog, and all the other characters like it, industry needs to get its act together. I’m not saying that Tony the Tiger should be sent ‘to live on a farm’, but packaging is part of a product’s marketing, like it or not.

Who is a grinning cartoon frog meant to appeal to if it’s not kids?

Sugary cereals will continue to have a market – and will continue to appeal to children. But either cut the sugar, or cut marketing it to kids. (To be clear, yes, that would include the cartoon character at children's eye-level in the supermarket.)

Come on industry – next time there’s a report about cereals marketed to kids, I hope it’s another opportunity to say ‘bravo!’

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