The purpose of this entry is two-fold: 1) To expose the how and why of the inexcusable misinformation that’s become so prevalent in the world of health and wellness. 2) To show how standing up to these injustices can pay off from time to time.
A Serious Injustice
Our story begins with a recent marketing sham from our pals at Kellogg’s. Direct from the “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me” department, newer boxes of their Rice Krispies product line have the word “Immunity” emblazoned across the cover in a font size that rivals the actual product name. It’s part of a tagline that says, “Now Helps Support Your Child’s Immunity.” This is, of course, criminal in its implication, as these products are light years away from being able to offer any form of quantifiable immunity from anything.
So what’s their angle? That by jacking up the amount of vitamins A, B, C and E from 10% to 25% of the recommended daily allowance, this cereal will bolster one’s immune system. Which brings us back to MY tagline for the day: “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”
Friends…through all my years of study and research in health and nutrition, I’ve seen an awful lot of stretching, bending and distorting of facts when it comes to the marketing of many foods and supplements. So much, in fact, that you would think I would be “immune” to the insanity by now. I’m not. In fact, when I see this stuff, I still get very frustrated sometimes. And when I think about some well-meaning parent buying this shit for their kids because of what they read on the box, I get pissed.
So, as this Kellogg’s deal is sort of a classic case in point, allow me to illustrate exactly why and how this is such nonsense, in three easy strikes:
Strike One: With vitamin C being among the most promising of their “immunity builders” here, let’s do the quick math on the actual amount you would be getting. Okay, the USRDA for vitamin C (which happens to be an embarrassingly low standard, by the way) is 60 mgs. 25% of that would only be 15 mgs. Compare that to the 1000 mgs. minimum you should be getting everyday. (I usually take in over 2000 mgs. per day, and that’s in consideration of all the other antioxidants I ingest.) And if you feel a cold coming on and/or find yourself under a lot of physical or mental stress, you can head on up toward 3000 mgs. in many cases (spread out over the course of the day), so long as you’re not taking a bunch of other stuff. So, if we’re talking about getting any reasonable amount of vitamin C to quantifiably affect your immune system, 15 mgs. isn’t shit. (Such is also the case with the miniscule amounts that this cereal has of the other vitamins listed.)
Strike Two: These kinds of cereals are so heavily processed and devoid of anything substantive (including even a minimal amount of fiber), that all of these vitamins and minerals have to be “fortified” back into the product via a process where the cereal is sprayed with nutrients. This means that the nutrients can actually “wash off” the cereal when wet. So if you don’t drink the (hopefully soy or rice) milk, you won’t even get many of these nutrients, anyway.
Strike Three: For all that is NOT present in this cereal, let’s take a quick look at what actually is:
Cocoa Krispies ingredients: Rice, Sugar, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Semisweet Chocolate (Sugar, Chocolate, Anhydrous Dextrose), Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (one or more of Coconut, Soybean and/or Cottonseed), Salt, Malt Flavoring, Calcium Carbonate, High Fructose Corn Syrup Artificial Flavor, Ascorbic Acid and Sodium Ascorbate (Vitamin C), Iron, Alpha Tocopherol Acetate (Vitamin E), Niacinamide, Zinc Oxide, Vitamin A Palmitate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Folic Acid, BHT (preservative), Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, less Than 0.5g Trans Fat Per Serving
This ingredient list pretty much speaks for itself. Just know that one serving (which they consider a paltry 1 oz., or 3/4 of a cup), contains about three teaspoons of sugar. More realistically, triple that for a typical bowl of cereal and you’re looking at nine teaspoons of sugar, a gram of artery-clogging trans fat and a measly amount of synthetic nutrients…some percentage of which you might not even assimilate. So even if you were to pound down a larger serving of this cereal in an effort to get more nutrients, you are getting commensurately more bad stuff in the process. Meanwhile, I see nothing about this product on any level that shows promise of boosting immunity.
Which brings us to…
A Little Bit of Justice
While there have been a fair number of rumblings around the web (and elsewhere) about this lunacy, someone was able to successfully press Kellogg’s for some accountability. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera recently notified A.D. David Mackay, the president and CEO of Kellogg, that he had 30 days to offer specific evidence that Cocoa Krispies really does help support a kid’s immune system. The result? Kellogg’s announced today that they will pull this claim from the packaging, “given the public attention on H1N1.” Whatever their official rationale for so quickly acquiescing, I don’t care. I’m just thrilled about the outcome, and about the spotlight that has been directed toward this kind of deceitful marketing.
Back at you in a day or two,