Goodbye Cereal?

It’s Saturday morning and I’m sitting at the studio watching a few lone people get their weekend workout in at 7am, which by the way, you should have been doing as well.

I decided to get caught up on some reading so grabbed the latest copy of Canadian Business and dug in. You wouldn’t think this is a logical place to garner new insights into health and fitness. You would be surprised.  I don’t think enough people recognize that much of what you eat and the fitness you are told is good for you is actually dictated not by science but by business and economic.

The June 2011, Canadian Business has an article on pg. 23, a section called The Ode. It is essentially a saying farewell tribute to cereal mascots. You know them, Tony the Tiger (1951), Toucan Sam (1963), or the original, Snap (of Snap, Crackle, and Pop fame) who first appeared on a Rice Krispies box in 1933. From that point onwards, the cereal mascots only rose in popularity.

But this isn’t a blog about the history of cereal. It is about something else that I noted in the article. Did you know that in 1990 the U.S. government enacted the CTA, or Children’s Television Act, which limited the number of commercials allowed during children’s programming. And then in 2006 the Better Business Bureau stated that it was unethical to use cute mascots to promote foods that were unhealthy to children.

This is the part that caught my attention. They state that it is unethical to promote unhealthy foods to children. What’s the key point there? Unhealthy foods. They know what’s unhealthy. And cereal and fast food are at the top of the list.

It’s not just government cracking down on business however. As soon as the Better Business Bureau issued the statement, 17 major corporations (including General Mills and McDonalds) voluntarily lessened their marketing of, “their least nutrition brands to children.”

What? Essentially, they admit there food is poor nutritive value. And they didn’t stop marketing this to children, they just reduced the amount of advertising.

It’s even more clear with new recommendations from the Obama administration based on recommendations from the Federal Trade Commission advising companies should only market food to children 2-17 that are low in fats, sugar, and sodium.

This all leaves me baffled.

Sure, we shouldn’t be marketing unhealthy food to children. But we shouldn’t be marketing unhealthy food to ANYONE. Has anyone noticed that there is an epidemic of obesity and diabetes and other health related disease are still on the rise?

Why all of this focus on decreasing the marketing of UNHEALTHY food? Why don’t we focus on not making unhealthy food and replacing it with healthy food?

This is the business side of health. Profit and pleasing shareholders. Don’t get me wrong, I am a free market capitalist through and through. It’s fine for cars, appliances, houses, whatever. But not our food. There are some things to be regulated and our health is one of them.

They can’t focus on healthy food because the profit margins are slimmer and the publicly traded companies that produce and sell these foods would have to justify the profit loss, which is against their very being.

It is great that we are decreasing advertising to children of unhealthy options. But it is only happening because advertising is changing. Sure take away TV commercials, it looks good to the public. But TV advertising is dying anyway as social media becomes the mainstream. Proctor and Gamble redirected more than 50% of their television advertising budget to social media just last fall. And you can bet advertiser’s will be making use of those outlets and they won’t care how old the audience is. Let’s face it, young people don’t want Tony the Tiger anymore, they want to see the next tweet.

Let’s forget about the advertising and start focusing on improving the nutritious quality of our food supply. Then it won’t matter who watches the ads.

It’s a lot like the fitness industry. We all flock to the big gyms and well marketed products. Even though we know that all the books, DVD’s, and large gym chains are ineffective at helping people achieve long term health and fitness success, yet we still flock to them all, buy the next book, watch the latest DVD, or join the next large fitness club because the change rooms are so nice.

When will we see a turn towards producing healthy food and marketing effective and long term fitness solutions?

-Taylor

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