July 23, 2007

Serving Size Trix Are For Kids!

You know how sugared cereal manufacturers are hyping their voluntary advertising restrictions, where they say they won't market food with more than 200 calories or 12 grams of sugar per serving to kids under 6? And how they claim they're going to reformulate the recipes to lower the sugar content?

Well, Consumerist reports that for some of General Mills cereals, arbitrary manipulations of the recommended serving size could be enough to evade the already arbitrary, self-imposed regulations. They point out that the USDA uses a serving size of 30g in their RDA calculations, but General Mills uses a volume-based measure, 3/4 cup. This equates to 32g of heavier Trix, but only 27g of Cocoa Puffs. The Trix has 13g of sugar, and would be restricted by the rule, while the Cocoa Puffs squeak by at 12g.

I don't doubt that serving size manipulation will be a vital tool for sugar companies seeking to keep marketing to kids, but I don't really see this comparison as very compelling evidence of it. 3/4 cup is 3/4 cup. Besides the fact that this is totally irrelevant to what people actually eat--growing up, our serving size for Lucky Charms was 1 giant mixing bowl--I think there are other things to pay attention to in the mean time:

1) Check the Sugar Ratio, not just the sugar. Sure, it's important to keep track of a kid's sugar intake. But if serving size and weight numbers make Apple Jacks to Apple Jacks comparisons impossible, why not calculate the % sugar content of a food instead? Then you can see that Trix is 41% sugar, while Cocoa Puffs is 44% sugar. Holy crap, that's a lot of sugar! Are you kidding me?

2) Is someone tracking this nutritional data independently? Because the cereal companies go out of their way to obscure it. Instead of laying it out in an easy-to-review table or database, the nutritional information for all these cereals and Pop Tarts and stuff is isolated on each product page and requires several clicks to retrieve. Then when you do get it, it turns out to be an image of the nutritional label, not text, which renders it invisible to text-indexing search engines and automated screenscraping programs which might compile it into a more useful format or database or which might monitor for changes.

Also, from now on, even though it's only [sic] 41% sugar, the Lucky Charms don't come out until after the kid's asleep.

Cereal Makers Target Kids, Evade Junk Food Advertising Ban [consumerist]
Previously on DT: "Kellogg's Frosted Flakes: 11g. General Mills' Shrek: 16g"

1 Comment

44%! That can't be right- hold on. I just checked. It is right. Well, no wonder it's so tasty. Lucky for me, P-nut Butter Cap'n Crunch is only 33%.

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