The Kellogg Nutrient Criteria: Cereal Solution or CYA?

Kellogg’s has announced that it plans to boost the nutritional value of their foods marketed towards children. They have developed a basis for this value they call the Kellogg Nutrient Criteria. Their criteria say that a single serving of their product should contain no more than 200 calories, 2 grams of saturated fat and no trans fat, 230 mg of sodium or less, and no more than 12 grams of sugar, not counting sugar grams from fruit, dairy, and vegetables. While it sounds as if they are acting in the best interests of children, they are actually making a proactive move towards avoiding lawsuits. The simple fact is that parents are the ones who purchase these cereals and other junk foods for their children. There are plenty of healthy cereals on the market. Why should they be able to sue a company because they can’t make their own health-conscious decisions?

While I believe this is a good move for the company I also believe in the power of personal choice. There are lots of options at the grocery store and many of them are nutritionally sound ones. The problem begins when parents cave into their own and their children’s craving for junk food and then want to blame the food companies for making it available.

It’s great that Kellogg’s is making an effort to market healthier foods to children. Yet how healthy are these criteria? 12 grams of sugar is equal to three teaspoons. Would you let your child dump that much sugar on their lunch or dinner? Most children, unless they’re very young, eat more than one serving at a time. I’ve seen teenagers devour a box in a day. That’s not exactly healthy. Just because Frosted Flakes has less sugar it doesn’t mean it’s a health food. Moreover, some flavors contain nuts and berries that can trigger allergies. This is why before you consume any product understanding your food intolerance is necessary. Parents can make a mindful decision like this while provide healthy food to their kids. 

The ironic twist to this story is that William K. Kellogg developed cereal as a healthy breakfast food. He was a health fanatic and was constantly experimenting with ways to create nutritious yet convenient foods that he could market. He invented cornflakes by accident and they caught on quickly. He wanted to make people, and the world, a healthier place. Now many of the cereals that bear his name are full of the unhealthy ingredients he fought against.

It is important for food companies to take responsibility for how they aggressively market junk food to young children. It’s just as important for Americans to step up to the plate and take responsibility for their health. If junk food isn’t in the house, the kids can’t eat it. The only way they’ll learn healthy eating habits is through their own family. Kudos to the Kellogg Company for creating their nutrient criteria, and a big fat raspberry for their reason.