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Jamie Oliver Attacks Kraft's Lunchables -- A First for Network TV

On the last episode of ABC's "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution" on Friday, the spiky-haired British chef served up his biggest criticism yet of a specific branded food product.

Holding up a fuzzed out image of a Lunchables tray, Oliver declared, "I hate these things." Then glaring at the ingredients label and oozing with disgust, he sniffed, "Look at the amount of ingredients for that small offering. If you want to give your kids a good nutritious lunch, you don't give them Lunchables."

This televised trashing occurred at a Huntington, W.V., elementary school during a scene in which Oliver discovers that some parents are apparently rejecting the fresh, nutritious school food that the lunch ladies are now serving thanks to Oliver, in favor of sending their kids off to school with brown bags and lunch boxes.

Peaking into the lunch boxes, he discovers all sorts of offending foods. The Lunchables actually look pretty good next to the "meal" one parent packed -- three zip lock bags of chips and one bag of candy.

If you're a Kraft (KFT) brand manager in change of Lunchables, this is not fun Friday evening TV. Not since Oprah vowed to renounce hamburgers because of mad cow disease has a food product been so directly trounced on network TV. The threat of an expensive Oprah-esque lawsuit is no doubt why the Lunchables logo was blurred out. Oliver also held up another branded product, but I wasn't able to tell what it was.

The stunt illustrates the liability food companies now face when their products are made with artificial ingredients and don't have what industry insiders like to call "clean labels." In calling out the "crap" in Lunchables, Oliver was probably referring to the "cherry flavored water beverage" with high fructose corn syrup and the artificial sweetener Splenda. Or the "artificially flavored blue raspberry candy" with modified food starch, partially hydrogenated soybean oil and blue 1.

Even the cheese in the "Extra Cheesy Pizza" variety can not technically be called cheese. It's "pasteurized prepared cheese product," and the #2 and #3 ingredients are water and whey protein concentrate.

If there is any small piece of good news for Kraft here, it's that the company was not one of the food manufacturers that made the dubious decision to advertise on Oliver's show. That distinction goes to General Mills (GIS), Unilever and Snapple.

And by the way, despite the fact that General Mills sells a lot of un-Oliver products, its Green Giant brand has reaped huge rewards during the show. Not only are there multiple product placement scenes where the camera lingers over prominently displayed packages of Green Giant Steamers, but Oliver actually tells viewers how great they are for cooking, while echoing the message from Green Giant commercials about how frozen vegetables can sometimes have more nutrients than fresh ones.

Image by Flckr user megansquire Related Posts: Why Makers of "processed Crap" Could Regret Advertising on Jamie Oliver's New Show