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They’re not so grrrrrrrreat.

We have a new scapegoat. Turns out, it isn’t our own fault if our little kids get fat. Just blame it on Tony the Tiger. A consumer watchdog agency in Great Britain, known as Which?, berated the so-called cartoon villains for promoting poor eating habits in children.

On the list of bad guys is Tony the Tiger, Quicky the Nesquik Bunny, Snap!, Crackle! And Pop!, as well as Coco the Coco Pops monkey.

According to Which?, these characters are not using their star power to help fight childhood obesity, and for that, the government should step in. Not one of the 19 food cartoon favorites is promoting healthy foods, they say. (Personally, I always thought that Rice Crispies were fine as long as I didn’t put sugar on top?) In the spirit of forbidding a friendly-looking camel from selling cigarettes, a Which? survey found that consumers agree: these companies should not be allowed to use cartoons to sell junk food.

They even lambasted a happy cow selling dairy products – because ceese has a lot of saturated fat and salt.

They are calling for voluntary action by the food industry, followed up by government regulation if that fails. Keep in mind, this is a British organization, but there are such regulations here in the US.

Kelloggs defended itself and its cartoons, saying the characters pre-date the childhood obesity problem. I agree with their spokesman, that removing cartoons from cereal marketing campaigns is not the magic bullet to helping chubby kids. But I have a secret. The magic bullet is this: ‘No.’

Whose fault is it if my children are overweight? Mine. Even if they did get fat by eating sugary cereal – whose fault is it that they have access to the cereal? Mine! And it’s for precisely this reason that I do not buy sugary cereals. I don’t even buy Honeynut Cheerios or instant oatmeal (unless it’s low sugar) because I don’t want my son to get in the habit of having dessert for breakfast. If my son asks for something I know isn’t good for him, I use the magic bullet and say, ‘No.’ We splurge on the weekend with homemade pancakes and maple syrup.

Should companies be allowed to use cartoons to appeal to children? Should the government step in and tell parents that since they are incapable of making decisions for their kids, or incapable of refusing to buy something for their kids, that companies should not be allowed to advertise with something that kids may like? Maybe it should be illegal to have a playground at a fast-food restaurant. After all, the kids might ask to go.


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