In the long and deep canyons of today's supermarket aisles, there's no shortage of products that would like you to believe they are healthier than they really are. Among these, Kellogg's new FiberPlus cereal deserves special attention for the way in which the product's marketing bears spectacularly little resemblance to the cereal itself.
With supermarket shoppers increasingly motivated by a desire to buy healthy food for their families, Kellogg's has billboarded its cereal with lots of important trigger words -- fiber ("40% of your daily fiber"), antioxidants and yogurt, as in berry yogurt crunch. A plump, ripe strawberry and two perfect little blueberries adorn the bottom corner of the box, suggesting all kinds of natural goodness inside.
Shoppers who look at nothing more that the front of the package would be inclined to conclude that this cereal is smart choice for a healthy breakfast. But when you turn the box around, it's a different story. The ingredient list contains 83 items, which is a lot even for a breakfast cereal. Froot Loops, for instance, is made with a mere 34 ingredients. The much-derided Chocolate Cheerios has 27.
While the ingredient list starts out on a promising note with whole grain wheat, the good news ends there. After that, it's an incomprehensible slew of artificial flavors, food dyes, chemical preservatives, processed aids like modified starch and other highly processed ingredients like fructooligosaccharies. You have to wonder -- if Kellogg's is trying to go for healthy here, did this cereal really need to be loaded up with a rainbow of petrochemical food colorings -- Red #40, Blue #2, Green #3 and Blue #1?
There are natural food dyes available. The artificial ones have been linked to hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children and have been shown to cause cancer in lab animals.
As far as the fiber and antioxidant claims on the front of the box, that's the result of modern food science. Most of the 10 grams of fiber per serving is not coming from what's naturally occurring in the whole wheat, but from extracted sources like inulin and soluble corn fiber, whose health benefits are probably not the same as the fiber you find in fruits, vegetables and beans.
As the Fooducate blog points out, the antioxidants promised on the front of the box are coming not from the small amount of dried strawberries and blueberries, but from cheap, synthetic vitamins every nearly every cereal box contains, in this case the antioxidant vitamins C and E. So nothing special there.
And if you're wondering about the yogurt in the "berry yogurt crunch," that's ingredient #61 -- heat-treated nonfat yogurt powder, which has none of the beneficial bacterial cultures found in actual yogurt.
This cereal seems to suggest that Kellogg's has a very dim view of its customers' nutritional sophistication. Clearly, most people don't know or care about different kinds of dietary fiber. But anyone can look at a run-on ingredient list and know that what's in the box probably isn't all that healthy. Shoppers are much smarter than the creators of this cereal assume.
Image from Kellogg's