Parents furious over 'hypocrisy' of cereal ad

Kellogg's accused of pushing Coco Pops while backing obesity campaign

Martin Hickman,Consumer Affairs Corresponent
Monday 01 February 2010 01:00 GMT

Parents have accused the cereal maker Kellogg's of hypocrisy for suggesting pupils snack on Coco Pops while publicly backing a Government campaign against child obesity.

The US manufacturer is advertising on bus stops with the slogan: "Ever thought of Coco Pops after school?", and running television adverts showing a pupil tucking in to a bowl accompanied by its famous cartoon monkey.

Parents complain the adverts urge children to fill up on the sugary cereal in the afternoon instead of something healthier. One person posted a message on the social networking site Twitter which read: "Coco Pops after school? Yeah that's a good idea ruin your kid's appetite ... Well done Kellogg's."

Another wrote: "'Ever thought of Coco Pops after school?' Ever heard of childhood obesity?" The user Doctorow said: "Kid-targeted candy advertising at its worst." Another parent added: "These advertisements are sited at bus stops close to schools. I thought the Government was trying to clamp down on these attempts to make children obese!"

The adverts appear to clash with the cereal company's support for the Department of Health's fat-reduction programme aimed at halting sharply rising rates of obesity.

Kellogg's is a "national partner" of Change4Life, which advises parents to "sugar-swap" by ditching a sugary pudding for a sugar-free jelly or yoghurt. Among its tips is: "Try replacing the unhealthy snacks with ones you don't mind them eating – fruit, oatcakes, breadsticks and frozen fruity ice-cubes."

Coco Pops contain 35 grams of sugar for every 100 grams, making it one of the more sugary options in the breakfast cereals market.

Christine Haigh of the Children's Food Campaign claimed that the cereal maker's advertising did not tally with its role as a partner for Change4Life. "It's outrageous that Kellogg's, which is a partner of Change4Life, is encouraging children to eat more of their sugary products," she said.

"One of the key messages of Change4Life is encouraging families to swap snacks with added sugar for low-sugar or sugar-free alternatives."

Kellogg's pointed out its average serving was 30 grams, not 100 grams. The firm said: "A bowl of Coco Pops is low in fat, contains vitamins and iron and, with milk, gives you only 175 calories a bowl. Coco Pops also has less than two teaspoons of sugar per serving – that's less than two slices of toast and jam and less sugar than a fruit yoghurt. That's why we, and many parents, think a bowl of Coco Pops with milk is a perfectly good choice of after-school snack."

According to the latest figures, 27 per cent of primary school children in England are overweight or obese. Obesity costs the UK £3.5bn a year. The Department of Health declined to criticise Kellogg's but said all Change4Life partners had to "sign up to terms of engagement".

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