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The Los Angeles Times reports that Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity is out with a study suggesting that the nation's major cereal manufacturers are guilty of sending mixed messages when it comes to marketing to kids - that while they may have improved the nutritional quality of cereals marketed to kids, they still are spending more time and money selling their least nutritious offerings.

According to the story, the Rudd Center "says that food companies spent 34% more in 2011 – a total of $264 million -- than in 2008 to promote cereal targeted to children. And none of its healthiest brands makes advertising to children a priority, says Kelly Brownell, director of the Rudd Center." For example, "In 2011, the average 6- to 11-year-old saw more than 700 TV ads for cereals; the average 2- to 5-year-old saw 595 such ads, the study said. Of those, the study said, 45% promoted General Mills’ Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Honey Nut Cheerios, Lucky Charms and Reese’s Puffs; and Kellogg’s Froot Loops."

In addition, while the report concedes that most kids' cereals have less sugar and sodium, as well as more fiber, it also suggests that they generally still have too much sugar.

Kellogg's responded to release of the study by saying, "“We’re pleased that the Rudd Center has acknowledged the important nutrition improvements we’ve made in our kids’ cereals since 2009. The consumption of breakfast cereals is linked to healthier body weights and more nutritionally complete diets. Kellogg has a long-standing commitment to responsibly market foods that meet strict nutrition criteria."

The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) noted that "working through the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI), America’s leading cereal companies have voluntarily adopted strict advertising criteria so that 100 percent of their ads seen on children’s programming promote healthier diet choices and better-for-you products.  Under CFBAI, they have reformulated products to reduce sugars, fats and sodium and to increase positive nutrients.  Since 2007, sugar reductions in cereals have ranged from 10 to 25 percent, and today 86 percent of cereals advertised to children contain no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving."

And, GMA added, manufacturers have introduced "more than 20,000 new product choices with fewer calories, reduced fat, sodium and sugar, and more whole grains since 2002."
KC's View:
This is all well and good. In the end, as a parent, I want clear and transparent labeling, so I can make decisions about what to buy for my kids and what to allow them to eat.

Though if companies are promising one thing and doing another, I think it is important for parents to know that, as well.