Monday, June 18, 2007

Keeping the Do-Gooders at Bay

Fire of Liberty

Today, I came across an interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal that noted that the good folks at Kelloggs have been forced into removing cartoon characters or kid friendly characters from their cereal boxes and ads after busy bodied "consumer advocacy" groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood threatened to sue them for "brainwashing" the children of America into obesity. Now while these "do-gooder" groups might think that they're the greatest arbiter of what is in the best interests of America's, I believe that they fail to realize that the best judge on what is best for children is their parents. No matter how much little Johnny or Susie pout, beg, or pitch a fit for so and so cereal, the parents still make the final decision about what they buy and feed their children.
These parents can also observe their kids eating a bowl of cereal with milk and be rest assured that their kids are eating something that is far better for them rather than what they'd eat for lunch or a snack during their school day. Even more, it looks like these groups have such enmity towards capitalism and corporations that they are willing to force cereal makers to change their practices and ad campaigns which will result in these companies being shut down in the future for the sake of "the children." After reading the following from this op/ed in the New York Post by Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health, it looks like the kids of America might be the ones to suffer from the removal of such cereals. Here's a look at what the consumer advocacy groups fail to mention about in their shakedown of these cereal makers:
First, today's fortified cereals are sources of excellent nutrition for kids and adults. My late colleague Dr. Fredrick J. Stare, founder of the Harvard Department of Nutrition and co-founder of the group I run, the American Council on Science and Health, was the first to suggest over fifty years ago that cereal manufacturers fortify their products with beneficial nutrients -- scrawling the idea that became Special K on the back of a napkin to explain it to a Kellogg's executive.

Second, pre-sweetened cereals do provide calories, but for non-obese kids, calories can be a good thing -- they provide energy. And if the cereal is not pre-sweetened, the child may just do the sweetening with scoops from the sugar bowl -- often adding even more sugar than there would have been in a pre -sweetened product.

Sugar on cereal --particularly when eaten in conjunction with milk -- is not a threat to dental health. Unlike, say, a bagel, it does not adhere to teeth and cause decay. Further, cereal is an excellent source of fiber, not to mention the many nutrients it provides. The bottom line is that cereal -- pre-sweetened or not -- is a nutrient-dense product, so you get a lot for that caloric intake, far more than you would with, say, fruit juice.

Third, pre-sweetened cereal should be a low priority target in our war against childhood obesity (overeating all day and lack of exercise are the real problems). But even if cereal were the problem, why did Kellogg's not simply pledge to use a low-calorie sweetener instead of sugar in some of its cereals -- and thereby give parents a choice?
As always, I tend to favor and the consumer's (parents in this case) decision via the forces of the free market. If the Center for Science in the Public Interest is so concerned about the health of the kids in America, then they should be devoting their time promoting and educating parents and kids about the benefits of exercise and eating in moderation rather than threatening lawsuits.

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