Levelling the playing field: Kellogg’s feels the brunt of social media to remove chemicals from its kiddies’ cereals sold in the US

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

Pic: GettyImages/jessicaphoto
Pic: GettyImages/jessicaphoto

Related tags WK Kellogg Co Breakfast cereals Additives artificial colors petition General mills chlormequat butylated hydroxytoluene

More than 80,000 consumers have added their names to a petition by food activist and one of Time Magazine’s 2015 ‘most influential people on the internet – Vani Hari (aka Food Babe) – urging Kellogg’s to eliminate synthetic additives from its breakfast cereals targeting children. It’s been done elsewhere, so why not the US?

Despite Kellogg’s promise to remove artificial colors and flavors from its cereals by the end of 2018, Hari said the Battle Creek-headquartered company has yet to fully follow through on its commitment.

To highlight this discrepancy, she points to Kellogg’s Foot Loops and Apple Jacks sold in the US that still contain artificial colors that are “derived from petroleum – a crude oil product”, which may cause hyperactivity in children and can disrupt the immune system. It requires a warning label when included in food products sold in the EU.

Moreover, ingredients like butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) – a “risky preservative linked to cancer in some animal studies as an endocrine disruptor that interferes with hormones” – maintains its presence in the US’ variants, but not in other editions sold with countries that strictly regulate food ingredients.

Food Babe 1

“In 2015, Kellogg’s announced plans to remove artificial colors and artificial flavors from their cereals by the end of 2018. It’s now 2024 and Kellogg’s still sells several cereals with artificial colors and flavors in America, all of which target young children,” wrote Hari in the petition directed at the breakfast cereal giant.

Outraged: why should American children continue to be exposed to them unnecessarily

“As a mother of two young children, I am outraged that an American food company like Kellogg’s can sell safer versions of their cereals without artificial food dyes and BHT overseas,” Hari told Bakery&Snacks.

Many of these additives are currently at the center of a storm​ in the US. Like a domino run gaining pace, several states have joined the the brewing skirmish to wrest control of food additive regulation from the feds. Watch this space for updated information.

“The artificial dyes that Kellogg’s uses in the US require a warning label in Europe that states they may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.

“Kellogg’s made the commitment to remove these dyes in 2015 but they utterly failed on their promise by creating several new artificially dyed cereals targeting small children in the past few years such as Baby Shark, Unicorn, Disney’s Little Mermaid, Elf on the Shelf and Peeps. Their most iconic children’s cereals, like Froot Loops and Apple Jacks, still contain artificial dyes.”

Food Babe kelloggs-lies-timeline-2024

Kellogg’s is not the only company within Hari’s sights, having raised similar concerns about General Mills’ Cheerios, which has been found to contain chlormequat, ​a toxic chemical linked to infertifility and delayed puberty,​and classified as ‘one of the top Dirty Dozen food additives to avoid’ by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

These findings have prompted calls from organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics for their removal from children's food products.

Vani Hari
Vani Hari (aka Food Babe)

“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued a policy statement in 2018 warning that some chemicals found in food colorings, preservatives, and packaging materials may harm children’s health and best be avoided,” Jason Karp, founder of HumanCo – a mission-driven holding company that invests in and builds brands focused on healthier living – and his lawyer Alex Spiro penned in an open letter to Gary Pilnick, chairman and CEO of WK Kellogg Company.

“Artificial colors have been banned in countries like Norway and Austria, and the UK has imposed a voluntary ban. They may be contaminated with carcinogens and cause an increase in hyperactivity in children. Artificial colors add absolutely no nutritional value and are used solely for aesthetic purposes.”

It can be done

Hari said she’s not asking Kellogg’s to start from scratch, as the producer has removed these ingredients from its Froot Loops and Unicorn Cereals sold in Europe and Australia.

Food Babe 2 Froot Loops Australia

“They don't need to reinvent the wheel as they already make these cereals overseas without these ingredients,” she told this site.

“The simple fact that Kellogg’s doesn’t use these ingredients elsewhere is proof that they are not needed and that Kellogg’s knows of the health implications.”

“Kellogg’s lied to the public and this is why I started the petition,” added Hari.

“There is a groundswell of support happening now because of Jason Karp’s legal demand letter to Kellogg’s and the petition has quickly grown to over 80,000 signatures.

“Furthermore, we’re in touch with several lawmakers and AG offices around the country.” In fact, “the Mayor of Miami just retweeted Jason’s letter to Kellogg’s and my graphics showing the side by side comparisons for Fruit Loops.”

Hari tweet

“We will continue growing this campaign until Kellogg’s follows through on the commitment it made back in 2015,” said Hari.

“Shortly after receiving Jason’s legal letter, Kellogg’s requested a meeting.

“We hope Kellogg’s uses this meeting as an opportunity to be a celebrated leader in the cereal industry by announcing the removal of artificial food dyes and BHT, while setting an honest date for their removal.

“American children deserve the same safe cereals that other countries enjoy. If Kellogg's has already found a way to make their cereals without these controversial chemicals, why should American children continue to be exposed to them unnecessarily?”

Food Babe 3 rainbow-krispies-2024

Hari welcomed the opportunity to get across her message, noting “it’s important for families to hold these companies accountable. Social media gives a voice to consumers and when consumers have been lied to by giant and iconic corporations such as Kellogg's, it can hold their feet to the fire.”

On her website, Hari claims that together with her ‘Food Babe Army’, she’s ‘been able to force some multibillion dollar food companies to change for the better, including Kraft, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, Subway, General Mills, Panera Bread, Anheuser-Busch, and Starbucks’.

WK Kellogg & Co had not responded to a request for comment before going to print.


A pilot study of chlormequat in food and urine from adults in the United States from 2017 to 2023

Temkin, AM, Evans S, Spyropoulos DD, et al

 J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol (2024)


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