Monday, February 20, 2006

Cereal box science

Another from the archives. I'm cleaning out some old files today.

As I ate my Wheaties one morning, I read the box. This particular box congratulated the finally-victorious Boston Red Sox and quoted three experts on sports nutrition who recommend Wheaties as a source of whole grains and complex carbohydrates. Wheaties have long touted their value as good fuel for athletes, so this sort of marketing is to be expected, and the claims of good nutrition are reasonable as prepackaged foods go.

However, there is a “scientific” diagram on the back, in the upper left corner, depicting a muscular diagrammatic person on a very scientific-looking grid background, clutching a bowl and spoon. Inside him, a tube from his mouth branches into three tubes. One tube leads down his torso, roughly where I expect it to lead, and the other two lead directly into his beefy, diagrammatic biceps. There are no such tubes in the human body, and if there were, they would not result in more-muscular arms. Some blue spheres in an inset appear to be flowing through these tubes. Do the experts know they were quoted alongside this diagram?

The marketing trend of condensing science into oversimplified sound bites is bad enough when the science comes out fundamentally intact. This same box includes a “Box Top$ for Education” decal on the top. If General Mills values education as more than a way to sell more cereal, they could begin by not promulgating marketing misinformation in the guise of science.


Post a Comment

<< Home