Good news for anyone eating Cheerios in Switzerland! Nestle and General Mills, who apparently work together when it comes to distributing and marketing their products outside of North America, have pledged to reformulate some of their most popular brands of breakfast cereal to cut out salt and sugar. The decision is just another in the growing movement of major corporations to provide healthier products, especially for our youngest consumers. Too bad they aren’t doing anything to help keep kids healthy in America.
Breakfast cereal has long been the bane of a nutrition-conscious mother. Kids are always asking for it and we’re always having to say, “No.” My daughter and I have had many a long conversation as we weave through the grocery aisles about the different types of energy you get from food and how sugary cereal can make you get tired easily while healthier foods keep you strong all day long. Appealing to her desire for superhero strength is the only way we can walk away from the Cinnamon Toast Crunch without an argument.
Unfortunately, Nestle and General Mills aren’t worried about healthy moms here in the States. They aren’t changing anything about the pathetic state of the nutritional content in US cereals. These changes are only taking place outside of North America. Most likely, it’s the result of proposed regulation in other countries that would force the companies to do something similar in the near future. As the problems of childhood obesity grow, plenty of other countries are looking for ways to help keep kids healthier, and that includes limiting the advertising of sugary foods like cereal.
Even though the move is an improvement for the millions of boxes of cereal sold in Europe and Asia, some are still critical of food companies. Malcolm Clark, coordinator of the Children’s Food Campaign of Britain’s Sustain charity, which seeks to protect children from junk food marketing, said, “Reformulating is great, but the question is how they then talk about their products. They can’t talk about them being healthy. They will be mildly less unhealthy than they were before.”
Still, I have to wonder what Malcolm Clark would have to say about the state of cereal here in the United States. We aren’t even getting the reformulation. We’re the country that calls communism on a mayor banning enormous cups of soda. We’re full sugar, full salt, all the time.
I’m kind of hoping that the plan is just in beta-testing. I’m hoping that General Mills and Nestle just want to test their new formulations before moving them to their home markets. Maybe there’s reason to hope for less unhealthy breakfast in the future. Or maybe we should all just continue to speed past the cereal aisle and spend more time with the produce. It’s probably the best option.
Still, if Nestle and General Mills are expecting the type of good press that Disney got when they announced their new health initiative, I think the PR teams over there will be disappointed. It’s hard to applaud such a measured and small step in the right direction that might simply be a pre-emptive strike against something they would’ve been forced to do in the future. Still, kids in the US could use every measured and small step they can get.