Sugar-coated marketing from cereal manufacturers

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Listening to this morning’s piece on sugary kids’ cereals on the Today programme turned my stomach.  Weasel words from Dr Clare Leonard, a nutritionist in bed with the Association of Cereal Food Manufacturers.  Here’s an industry that shamelessly dresses up cereals laden with up to 30% sugar as a nutritious breakfast.  In the face of a damning report from Which?, Dr Leonard trotted out all the ‘key messages’ in support of children’s cereals: it’s eaten with milk blah blah so sugar content is not actually 30%, got lots of vitamins and minerals blah, contributes one of five a day blah blah. Sugar-coated rubbish, all of it.

I’m ashamed to say that, once upon a time, I was a cog in this colossal deception.  For six years of my career (pre-kids), I happily promoted a lot of those food ingredients which I now try to avoid. You’ve seen those labels that shout meaningless, unregulated benefits such as ‘homestyle’ and ‘natural’?  Well, I penned many a press release extolling the benefits of certain ingredients which allow food manufacturers to suggest that their products were something they weren’t.

It’s the dishonesty that gets me. Sugary treats are sugary treats: we all know they aren’t great for us but they’re a nice indulgence. On the other hand, deliberately marketing an outrageously sugary cereal as a nutritous, vitamin-packed start to the day just makes me seethe. The nadir of this trend was the execrable Sunny Delight – in my opinion, the greatest marketing con of the last century. Thank goodness, it was ultimately unmasked as the hideously unnatural cocktail it is, but not before hoodwinking an entire nation into thinking it was ‘Florida style’ fresh orange juice.

It’s high time for marketing of food products to be properly regulated so that unsuspecting parents can at least know fact from fiction and make their choice accordingly.