Of course you don't serve your kids Twinkies or Chips Ahoy! cookies for breakfast. But many of us are serving our kids just as much - or more - sugar every day in the good ol' American cereal bowl. How much? See how bad it really is in Environmental Working Group's new report, Sugar in Children's Cereals. And even as they're busily adding sugar to their products, cereal makers are in Washington, lobbying hard to block proposed federal voluntary guidelines that would limit marketing of their cereals to kids.
EWG thinks the guidelines don't go far enough. They propose a voluntary cap of 26 percent sugar in cereals, while we prefer a mandatory 15 percent limit, but if these companies get their way (which they seem to do rather often), these ridiculously sugary cereals (10 worst listed here) will keep their kids'-eye-level place on your grocery store shelves.
They just don't belong there.
All you have to do is take a look at the growing list of news stories, cable TV shows, blogs and terrific images about the sugary cereals report (see some of my favorites below) to grasp that people are reacting to this information.
Why is this news?
As one EWG Facebook commenter - and many friends - asked, "Is this actually a surprise to anyone?"
To which I say: Both yes and no! Yes:
- Yes, to people who assume that if it's on the shelf and marketed to kids, surely someone out there must have made sure it's not - at the very least - outrageously unhealthy (they'd be wrong, of course).
- Yes, to people who pay no attention to nutrition labels.
- Yes, to people who grew up eating these cereals and still draw on that experience.
- Yes, to people who shop at grocery stores that don't offer healthier options.
- Yes, to people who give in to their kids' whining and look the other way.
- Yes, to people who think it can't be that bad.
- Yes, to people who assume that the front-of-the-box marketing claims (Vitamin A! Vitamin C!) are closely regulated.
- Yes, to people whose kids see the TV ads - far too often.
- Yes, to people who are short on time.
- Yes, to people who believe what they read on the Froot Loops web site, where the URL makes the intent quite clear: http://www.frootloops.com/healthymessage/index.html.
But also no:
- No, to those of us who are label readers.
- No, to us Grape Nuts and Amaranth Flakes types.
- No, to people who understand the link between sugar consumption and childhood obesity and Type II diabetes.
- No, to health-conscious parents.
- No, to folks who know to shop around for lower-sugar breakfast options.
- No, to people who say no to cold cereal in the morning altogether.
But we'd wager that the "yes"s outweigh the "no"s.
Something bigger going on here
Beyond the simple facts here - that kids' cereals are loaded with ludicrous amounts of sugar and the companies want to keep it that way because they sell so very well - there's something far bigger going on. This solid information (which EWG compiled from cereal makers themselves), and the humorous images of cookie-filled bowls that go with it, reflect the sordid food system that we've allowed to thrive while our bad health gets worse.
So while we do suggest that you not eat these desserts cereals, which some call "food" and our government allows, we hope it's obvious that many of us want something completely different. For now, some big, rich companies and their lobbyists are standing in the way - and the time has come for them to STEP ASIDE and let the eaters prevail. We're not going to take it anymore. And we get the feeling that you're not, either.
It's Time: Stand up for your food rights
It may be old news to many (especially EWG fans!) that there's a whole lot of sugar in kids' cereals, but the intense coverage and reaction to our report speaks volumes, doesn't it? It tells us loud and clear that the food movement's moment has arrived. Let's take advantage of it. You can start right now by signing EWG's petition to turn the farm bill (it's up for renewal in 2012) into a healthy food bill.
What we want isn't that complicated. We want REAL food, not manufactured "food." Period.
Here's some of the great coverage of Environmental Working Group's sugary cereals report:
Lisa Frack is the Social Media Manager at Environmental Working Group.
Cross posted from the EWG blog.