Evaluating the Nutrition Quality and Marketing of Children's Cereals

Researchers find that children’s cereals have 85 percent more sugar, 65 percent less fiber and 60 percent more sodium than cereals marketed to adults. In addition, companies are spending more than $156 million dollars a year to market these cereals directly to kids.

These findings are part of an extensive analysis of children’s cereals conducted by researchers at the Yale University Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity as part of the RWJF-funded Cereal FACTS (Food Advertising to Children and Teens Score) project. The results of this study were presented at the 2009 Obesity Society Meeting in Washington, D.C.

The complete report, Nutrition and Marketing Ratings of Children’s Cereals, offers unprecedented insight into the nutrition profile of children’s cereals and reveals how food companies are reaching kids to promote these products. The study also offers recommendations for protecting children from marketing for unhealthy products, including developing objective nutrition standards for cereals marketed to children and strengthening the definition of “children’s media.” Cereal manufacturers previously have pledged to market only healthy products through children’s media, but as currently defined the pledge does not apply to many programs popular with children. The report’s authors suggest developing a definition for children’s media based on the total number of children in the audience or the percentage of the audience that’s composed of children.