In January, 2007, $11.6 billion (2006 net sales) cereal manufacturing giant General Mills rolled out three million boxes of Wheat Chex and Multi-Bran Chex, each boasting a picture of cardiologist, Dr. Nieca Goldberg's face on the box.
Dr. Goldberg has been a frequent national spokeswoman for the American Heart Association (AHA). In a media interview, American Heart Association President, Dr. Alice Jacobs, stated that she supports Dr. Goldberg's work with the General Mills’ products. "The AHA is always in favor of educating the public on how to make heart-healthy lifestyle choices." Dr. Jacobs added that the AHA doesn't consider Goldberg's appearance on the cereal boxes ‘an endorsement’ of the products. "The content on the box is basic heart health information ," she said.
Putting images of someone like Dr. Goldberg on cereal boxes appeals to a certain audience, mothers worried about health in this instance. Manufacturers recognize that the perceptions of their food need to be created and nurtured.
Eerily reminiscent of tobacco company tactics of the 20th century? Recall the Brown and Williamson claim that Kool cigarettes keep the head clear and provide extra protection against colds? Lucky Strike, Chesterfield, and Camels all promoted the health benefits of cigarettes, including prominent endorsements by physicians.
How about Philip Morris’ ads for Virginia Slims cigarettes: "You've come a long way, baby"? Interestingly, food manufacturing behemoths Kraft and Nabisco were both majority-owned by Philip Morris, now renamed Altria.
Take a look at the composition of these two "heart healthy" breakfast cereals endorsed by Dr. Nieca Goldberg and the American Heart Association:
These products are sugar and sugar-equivalents with a little fiber thrown in and a lot of marketing propaganda, aided and abetted by the misguided antics of the American Heart Association and Dr. Goldberg. It's hard to believe that Dr. Goldberg would sell her soul on something so knuckleheaded for a moment of notoriety.
As I've often said, if a product bears the AHA Check Mark of approval, be sure not to buy it.