Chris Hoy’s ethical foundations shaken by Kellogg’s

BUILT ON BRAN FLAKES… BELIEVE ME, ANY SUCCESS HAS TO BE BUILT ON THE RIGHT FOUNDATIONS. THIS IS WHY I LIKE TO START MY DAY WITH A DELICIOUS BOWL OF KELLOGG’S BRAN FLAKES PACKED FULL OF FIBRE. GOOD, HEARTY STUFF. I LOVE IT. AND IF IT WORKS FOR ME… IT COULD CERTAINLY WORK FOR YOU!
– Chris Hoy, Triple Gold Medallist – Beijing 2008, on the back of a box of Kellogg’s Bran Flakes

Perhaps the most depressing incident in Channel 4’s otherwise predictable Dispatches investigation of breakfast cereals was a small boy saying he’d choose Kellogg’s Bran Flakes because, ‘they’re good for cycling.’

But what a reasonable conclusion to come to given that the Olympian Chris Hoy is so glowing in his endorsement. Chris Hoy is not just an Olympic hero, World and Commonwealth Champion, he’s a Knight Bachelor, Member of the Order of the British Empire, BBC Sports Personality of the Year Winner (UK and Scotland), recipient of a couple of honorary degrees and much more.

There is nothing wrong with Sir Chris Hoy making money from his celebrity, but his irresponsibly selling out to Kellogg’s Bran Flakes should leave us all nauseous. It is not the action of a role model for aspiring young cyclists.

Kellogg’s smother all of their products with health claims, but when put on the spot have surprisingly little to say in their defence. Hoy’s words dominate the packet, while an asterisk directs the reader to some very small print to be appended to his endorsement – ‘Enjoy as part of a healthy, balanced diet and active lifestyle’ – that does nothing to let him off the hook. It’s the same as saying its okay to eat cake, just make sure cake isn’t all you eat.

The Kellogg’s press office has uploaded this clip from BBC2’s Professor Regan’s Nursery to YouTube. The upshot is that any breakfast at all is better than nothing… better than nothing is hardly a ringing endorsement.

Kellogg’s get us in the habit of eating breakfast, goes the argument (as if pre-Kellogg’s breakfast was a rarity), but surely we should up our game and look for a breakfast that’s more than better than nothing… and what about the other eating habits Kellogg’s promotes: the unwelcome side effects of a high sugar, high salt breakfast? It’s not like breakfast cereal is the only option on the menu.

Kellogg’s also like to push the claim that ‘40% of children’s calcium intake comes from their daily bowl of cereal.’ Some Kellogg’s cereals – not Bran Flakes – have added calcium, but in the main the calcium comes from the milk they’re served with. Replacing a serving of Kellogg’s Bran Flakes with a packet of Walker’s Cheese & Onion crisps and serving the milk in a glass ensures your child will still get the calcium, while reducing their sugar intake from 7g to 0.6g (it’s the same amount of salt; cheese & onion is among the most sugary crisp flavours).

In the clip, Professor Regan’s Nursery is convinced sugar is not a problem (but inexplicitly suggests we limit our intake). The impact of sugar on children’s teeth is overlooked. More long term, the professor fails to consider that having developed a sweet tooth, high fat cakes and confectionary easily tempt.

Salt is also ignored, perhaps because it’s associated with health risks that small boys and girls are unlikely to worry about like high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Salt masks other flavours, which subsequently become unfamiliar. Once used to a lot of salt, we want it on everything. Another bad habit that’s hard to shake.

Sir Chris Hoy probably made many sacrifices along the way to the Beijing Olympics. Perhaps he thinks that this claim that the foundation of his success is a daily bowl of Kellogg’s Bran Flakes, is something only a naive child could take seriously. But that’s the problem.

3 thoughts on “Chris Hoy’s ethical foundations shaken by Kellogg’s

  1. Margaret,
    Salt has been linked to childhood obesity, but not because of fluid retention, as you appear to suggest, but because it encourages other poor dietary habits.

    Salt is associated with many diseases and you’re right to advise people to reduce their intake.

    But on your website you repeatedly assert: ‘If you cut down on calories you will not lose weight.’

    You appear to base this claim on the idea that obesity is exclusively caused by excess fluid and fat retention resulting from excess salt and too little calcium.

    You suggest that: ‘Most fat people are “dieting” most of the time – i.e. they are eating insufficient food for their body’s needs.’

    You present no evidence for this claim, which seems most unlikely. I can’t say I’ve observed this behaviour in fat friends or acquaintances.

    In truth a great many of us over eat. I’m often tempted by comfort foods myself. Sadly, all the evidence is that eating foods high in fat leads to obesity.

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