Not what today’s kids need to hear, but the feds are now messing with our breakfast cereal.
It’s happening in the U.S. now, so no doubt we’ll see this in Canada too. The Food and Drug Administration is putting a definition on “healthy” so that consumers can look for a trusted, easy-to-understand label when deciding how best to feed their families.
I mean, it’s noble and it may just be the right thing to do but still, I say, “Booo.”
One food group getting attention in the news recently is breakfast cereal. And by the way, why do we call it “breakfast cereal?” Are there other cereals? Dessert cereal? Cocktail cereal? It’s like tuna fish. Are there other things tuna could be besides fish? Casserole, I suppose.
So, the agency wants to do all of us a favour in defining healthy for labelling and packaging purposes so that food manufacturers can’t just throw the word “healthy” around. Hey, I grew up in the ’70s. I’ve seen a lot of things advertised as “healthy” that were far from it. From gum to pop to cigarettes — we’ve been told there are healthy choices.
The FDA is saying: ‘No more!’
It’s saying that to call a food “healthy” it has to, No. 1, be food. Real food. Not a chemical mixture (looking at you, Twizzlers). Also, in addition to being food, the healthy label can only be applied to food that does not exceed certain limits on things like saturated fat, sodium and added sugar.
If I were the maker of certain breakfast cereals, or cocktail cereals, I’d be feeling a little sweaty right about now.
Under the proposed rules, almost all cereals marketed to children would fail to earn a healthy label.
Wow. How times have changed. I grew up on cereals that were marketed maybe not as healthy but as “part of this healthy breakfast.”
In commercials, the bowl of Corn Pops or Sugar Crisp or Cap’n Crunch would be shown in a picture surrounded by toast, orange juice and fruit — because all us kids in the ’70s crawled out of bed on Saturday morning, turned Scooby Doo on, poured a big bowl of Count Chocula, took a bite and said, “Oops. Forgot to grab a half a grapefruit!”
Cereal was an absolute pantry staple. I’d go grocery shopping with my mom just so I could pick out a cereal and it was always something completely encrusted in sugar. Give me a Frosted Flake, Froot Loop or Lucky Charm and I was a happy little boy.
Some cereals that we might think of as healthy-ish also don’t make the cut under the new rules. Raisin Bran, Honey Nut Cheerios, Corn Flakes, Honey Bunches of Oats, Frosted Mini Wheats, Life and Special K are all less than worthy of a healthy label. Shouldn’t be a shock — they are all super tasty so they can’t be that good for you.
So, when we’re standing in the cereal aisle trying to make a choice, at least now we’ll be choosing between those with a clear “healthy” label (and should have a “tastes like sticks” label too) and those with no label at all.
The alternative to a healthy label was likely going to be negative. Instead of labelling healthy food, we might have seen unhealthy foods labelled with information about how terrible they are for us. It would be like cigarette labels and I do not need my Honey Combs or Alpha Bits to be plastered with warning pictures of some guy who looks like me sitting on a couch in his underpants in the glow of the TV light, balancing a bowl on his gut.
If this is all too much and ruining your Saturday morning sugar buzz, here’s some good news. It’s National Nut Day today! Nuts, I believe, would pass the FDA’s healthy criteria. They are real food, they do contain nutritious stuff and, as a bonus, they provide a fairly satisfying crunch.
Oh. Shoot. There’s the salt. The FDA probably won’t like that. I mean, I guess we could eat plain nuts. Or maybe that stick-tasting cereal isn’t half bad … with a little milk and a few spoons of sugar.