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General Mills' Sugar Reduction Scheme a Bit Disingenuous

General Mills (GIS), the maker of super-sweet cereals like Trix and Lucky Charms, has announced plans to reduce sugar in ten of its cereals that are most aggressively aimed at children. It's a good and important move -- some of these products are among the sugariest in the industry. But though General Mills is touting the move as good news for health-conscious consumers, the truth is that even with the cuts, these products will hardly qualify as good-for-you.

The goal is to cut back to a maximum of 11 grams per serving, but the goal only applies to certain products, and the company hasn't specified when it will meet these targets. Furthermore, 11 grams of sugar is still quite a lot (General Mills' Cheerios, in comparison, has only 1 gram per serving).

General Mills unveiled its new plan just weeks after Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity released a study condemning cereal companies for focusing the bulk of their kids' TV advertising slots on their least healthy options. In response to General Mills' recent announcement, the center's director said the reduction "doesn't represent perfection but it represents improvement."

But General Mills denies that the move was a response to criticism; rather it was a decision based on "consumers' desire for less sugar." Apparently the timing is just a coincidence -- just as it's also a coincidence that the new rules apply only to products that are advertised on television to children. Hmm.

The biggest problem with reducing sugar from consumer products, of course, is taste. But PureCircle (PURE) has its own convenient and helpful suggestion -- look into making cereals with Reb A instead of (or in addition to) sugar. Reb A is a zero-calorie sweetener derived from the extract of the stevia plant, and PureCircle is -- surprise surprise -- one of the companies that makes it.

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