Thursday, June 14, 2007

Froot Loops and Red Boxes

They’ve done it again. Both the New York Times and The Oregonian have put a major media story, affecting millions of kids, on their business pages.

The story is that Kellogg Co., under pressure from a lawsuit brought by child health advocacy groups and two parents, is phasing out its advertising of sugary, fat-laden foods to children under 12.

The company will also stop using branded toys and cartoon characters to market products that fail Kellogg’s nutritional guidelines. A whole host of Kellogg’s products fail to meet the guidelines: Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, Pop-Tarts, Rice Krispies, Cocoa Krispies, to name the most familiar.

So much for food that’s “fun” to eat.

So why, pray tell, is this a business story? Because it might affect Kellogg’s stock? Because rice manufacturers might take a hit?

No, this is a story that belongs on the front page in 48 point type. Parents need to see it far more than investors do.

Couple the story with the surge (there’s that word again) in childhood obesity over the last few years. Food like this and inactivity caused by screen addictions and physical inactivity are the causes.

The business page of The Oregonian featured another related media story worthy of the front page. “Happy Meal and a McDVD to go” reads the headline. Seems that McDonald's patrons soon will be able to rent DVDs from vending machines at McDonald’s outlets.

The story carries a photo of a rotund woman selecting a DVD from one of the bright red vending machines. “Happy Meals” could well be her staple. One can hope, although it is unlikely, that she intends to watch her DVD while on an exer-cycle. According to, she’ll need to exercise for 91 minutes to burn off the 600 calories in a “Happy Meal.” If she’s into cheeseburger Happy Meals and soft drinks, which appears likely, she can add another 30 minutes on the bike.

But because this to is written and presented as a business story, the connection between “Happy Meals” and DVDs and obesity is unacknowledged.

By the way, McDonald’s founded the DVD rental company, Red Box, spun it off but still owns a large share of it.

It’s a deadly combo.

The larger question, and the one that is hard to track unless you have the stomach for a lot of TV, is how, and whether, these stories played on television. Most people in this country get their news from television, which may explain the fix we are in.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

People like you--and commentary like this--are why I am sooo glad I don't live in Oregon anymore. Incidentally, I'm sure you people are glad I don't, either.

7:41 PM  

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