Children's Cereals Are Better, But Ads Are Worse

Cereal companies improve nutrition, but market their least healthful foods to kids.

Some cereal companies have improved kid-friendly cereals, but they're also pushing less-healthy foods to children, a report finds. (Photo: SusanGaryPhotography/Getty Images)

Jun 22, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Companies may be making more nutritious kid-friendly cereal, but they’re also pushing their least healthy products toward the little ones, a Yale report says.

The report found that since 2009 nutrition improved in 13 out 16 kid-targeted cereals, as sugar and salt decreased and fiber increased. Online marketing and TV ads for some of those foods saw a drop as well.

But these steps forward are tempered with several steps backward: Some companies stepped up ad campaigns for less healthful kid-friendly foods. Childrens’ exposure to TV ads rose from 2008 to 2011 for certain cereals, such as Foot Loops (up 79 percent) and Reese’s Puffs (up 55 percent).

As some corporate-sponsored Web sites aimed at kids have disappeared, others have sprung up, along with more banner advertising on various sites. Media spending on promoting kids’ cereals has risen as well, the report said: In 2011 it was $264 million, up more than a third from 2008.

The statistics are in the Cereal FACTS (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score) Report released today by the Yale Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity. They update the original 2009 report in which researchers scoured the nutritional composition of kid-targeted cereals and observed copious corporate marketing campaigns.

“It's not enough and the companies are still using all their marketing muscle to push their worst cereals on children," Rudd Center director Kelly Brownell told MSNBC.

Foods and beverages have become a major focus of the campaign against childhood obesity, as lawmakers and health experts consider policies such as soda taxes and enforced portion control as way to get kids—and adults—to slim down.

What are your feelings on food marketing campaigns aimed at kids? Tell us in the comments.

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