Journalist Michael Kinsley wrote: “The scandal is not what’s illegal. The scandal is what’s legal.” A corollary could be, it’s not only the allergens in the food that are the scandal, it’s other junk, too.
It came to my attention courtesy of my pals at Arizona Food Allergy Alliance [AFAA] that there is now a peanut-flavored version of Cheerios, so I went to my local supermarket to check them out. Not available yet, but what I did see was depressing. There were ordinary Cheerios, which I consume regularly. The box touts the fact that a serving contains just one gram of sugar per serving. Then there were all the others, for which low sugar content is not a selling point. Flavored like fruits and berries and chocolate, for Pete’s sake, they mostly contained 9 or 10 grams per serving. Nine grams of sugar is a third of an ounce. Okay, nothing surprising there, but new context, new indignation.
According to one of the AFAA members, General Mills assures them that the peanut-flavored O’s are made under conditions that preclude contamination, and the company does have a reputation for being conscientious about allergenic ingredients. They are to be commended.
But these cereals look like sugar-delivery systems, not food. Dr. Chiaramonte has written about (here and here) the link between the asthma epidemic and the obesity epidemic. Breakfast has long been touted as “the most important meal of the day.” But is any breakfast better than no breakfast? Is eating a third of an ounce of sugar before school the price our children pay for filling their stomachs, as well as the medical costs down the road? With all the chemistry firepower that goes into inventing these things, can’t they invent something that’s good for the kids?