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Posted: October 13, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Donuts for breakfast

"At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" Then Jesus called a little child to him, set him in the midst of them, and said, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. …Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me. Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to sin, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea. Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes!" (Matthew 18:1-7, NKJV).

Woe to Kellogg’s. Thursday morning, Oct. 2, the cable news show "Fox and Friends" did a story on the high sugar content of children’s breakfast cereals, saying that some of the brands marketed specifically to children are made up of over 50 percent sugar. The Fox News story is based on a Consumer Report study that will be printed in the Nov. 2008 issue. In the study, Consumer Reports gave only "Good" or "Fair" nutritional rating to 23 of the 27 best selling children’s cereals. Nine of the most popular brands were over 40 percent sugar, and two brands were over 50 percent sugar —Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and Post Golden Crisp. One bowl of either of these cereals has more sugar in it than a chocolate frosted donut.

As Kellogg’s must be aware of, this high consumption of sugar is not good for our children. Nancy Appleton, PhD, author of Lick the Sugar Habit, lists 146 negative effects of consuming a lot of sugar. Here are just a six from her list: obesity, tooth decay, high blood pressure, hyperactivity, mood swings and difficulty in concentrating. Dr. Applegate writes that "in juvenile rehabilitation camps, when children were put on a low sugar diet, there was a 44 percent drop in antisocial behavior."

Marlene Schwartz, of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University, asks this pointed question. "The question to the industry would be, why are you taking your most poor product, nutritionally and marketing it to children?"

It makes a person wonder, if tobacco companies can be held liable for the illnesses that their products contribute to, can cereal companies be held liable for harm that some of their products do? If a child ate Kellogg’s Honey Smacks every day for a year, and this child developed a number of health issues, could Kellogg’s be sued?

That is a question for the lawyers. But what the situation does point out is the need for oversight in a free market system. John McCain said recently that "the fundamentals of our economy are strong." I agree with McCain. We have a free market economy, and fundamentally, this is the best economic system. Simply look around the world, compare capitalist countries with communist countries and the picture is clear, take away the free, and there is no enterprise. Capitalism leads to prosperity. But at the same time, capitalism needs oversight. Consumer Reports does a marvelous job keeping watch on industry, but I wonder if the Food and Drug Administration is doing all that they should to insure safe and healthy food for children. Remember that the framers of the US Constitution had an underlying pessimism about human nature. They believed in the fallibility of humankind, that power corrupts, that people are weak, and so they devised a government in three branches with the hopes the separate branches might keep the evil tendencies in check. (Whether the "checks and balances" work as well as designed may be debatable!) The FDA may want to believe that food companies are actually making products that are good for people to eat, but they need to remember the old maxim, "trust but verify."

Rev. John Donaldson is the pastor at Newborn and Mansfield UMC’s, and may be reached at john.donaldson@ngumc.net.

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