Quite honestly, Froot Loops have always fascinated me. The brand is a marketing marvel, for one thing.

Take the mascot, Toucan Sam, for example. He was originally voiced by Bugs Bunny’s Mel Blanc, although the duties have been handed over to an actor with an English accent (but performed by a Canadian, as it turns out).

So I was interested when we received last Sunday, along with our local newspaper, a sample box of Froot Loops, “which now provides fiber,” you’ll be happy to know. In a separate caption below, it adds: “A great way to keep kids healthy.”

And it does indeed contain, according to the box, 3 grams of dietary fiber, or about 10 percent of your daily requirement. It also has 12 vitamins and minerals and one gram of fat per serving.

Well. Fair enough, but the ingredients list for Froot Loops starts with a familiar breakfast treat: sugar. By weight, Froot Loops is 41 percent sugar.

There is some whole grain in it, yes. But all of those luscious colors: Red # 40; Blue # 2; turmeric color; yellow # 6; zinc oxide; annatto color; blue # 1. (OK, it also contains “natural orange, lemon, cherry, raspberry, blueberry lime and other natural flavors.”)

The New York Times weighed in on some of this in an article last September on Froot Loops and the Smart Choice program, which has since been suspended. The Smart Choices program, backed by the nation’s food manufacturers, offered consumers peace of mind with a green checkmark on the packaging.

Not only did Froot Loops make the grade, but also the breakfast cornerstone, Cocoa Krispies.

Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, told The Times: “These are horrible choices.”

Smart Choices eventually grabbed the attention of the Food and Drug Administration. Smart Choices voluntarily suspended the program last fall, while the FDA develops “front-of-package” nutritional standards.

“The Smart Choices Program shares that exact goal, and was designed to provide a voluntary front-of-package labeling program that could promote informed food choices and help consumers construct healthier diets,” the organization said in a news release. “We continue to believe the Smart Choices Program is an important step in the right direction.”

So, when you receive your sample box of Froot Loops which now provides fiber but has the “same great taste,” don’t expect to see the consumer friendly green checkmark up top.

I must add that Kellogg’s, the manufacturer of Froot Loops, is making additional efforts in the name of national health. Kids who take the time to check out www.frootloops.com, may be greeted with a message that says: “Turn off your computer. Jump out of your chair. Go outside and play!”

That does sound like a smart choice.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kl_paige/3637587752/

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