Cereal Makers Target Kids, Evade Junk Food Advertising Ban

Crafty cereal makers may weasel out of their promise to stop advertising junk food to audiences under 12 by fudging serving size information. Eleven cereal makers last week set the threshold for products advertised to children at 12 grams of sugar per serving. According to the New York Times’ original coverage, many cereal makers are already “trying to reformulate the foods to meet nutritional guidelines.” Why reformulate when you can change the labels?

Much of General Mills’ serving size information is arbitrary. Take their line of Total: The serving size for Total and Total Honey Nut Clusters is 3/4 cup, which fluctuates between 30 grams for the former, and 48 grams for the latter. Compare that to Total Cranberry Crunch and Total Raisin Bran, which have larger serving sizes of 1 cup, or 53 grams. Total’s mass remains roughly the same mass regardless of whether it has raisins, cranberries, or honey nut clusters.

The standard USDA serving size is 30 grams. For Cocoa Puffs, General Mills uses a serving size of 27 grams. Under the USDA’s serving size, Cocoa Puffs have 14 grams of sugar, which would make them subject to the advertising ban; but by using a serving size of 27 grams, the sugar content drops to 12 grams per serving, meaning that General Mills can peddle their sugar puffs to kids without restriction.

Now compare that to General Mills’ treatment of Trix, which has a serving size of 32 grams. According to the both the USDA and General Mills, Trix have 13 grams of sugar, making them subject to the advertising ban. When the serving sizes are equal, Cocoa Puffs have more sugar than Trix; yet Cocoa Puffs will be advertised to children, while Trix, the cereal with less sugar, will be kept from audiences under 12.

Despite the labels, these trix are not at all sweet.

Trix indeed [U.S. Food Policy]
Cereals [General Mills]
Cocoa Puffs [NutritionData]
Trix [NutritionData]
PREVIOUSLY: Should We Unilaterally Ban Junk Food Advertising Targeting Children