Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kraft Defends "Lunchables"

How do you defend a food product targeted to kids that's high in sugar and calories and low in nutrition? You don't. You try to confuse the issue by talking about other food products.

That summarizes Kraft's response to my questions about the bologna-and-cheese "Lunchable" I wrote about in my last post.

Sydney Lindner, associate director, corporate affairs for Kraft, called my attention in an email to a subset of this combination lunch product--and of other Kraft foods--that are labeled "Sensible Solution." More about how they define those in a minute. Here's what Lindner had to say, in part:

"With kid-favorite foods conveniently packed together, quality Oscar Mayer meats and Kraft cheeses, and prices comparable to other lunchtime options, Lunchables Lunch Combinations are an incredible value. Nutritionally, the majority (italics mine) of Lunchables products have less calories than the daily recommended intake per meal and many (my italics again) meet Kraft's Sensible Solutions guidelines."

Got that? First of all, calling a product an "incredible value" wheb its components can be purchased, at retail, for less than half the price of the combo, is truly "incredible:" incredibly profitable. As for the rest of that comment, Lindner is saying that the bologna-and-cheese Lunchable doesn't meet Kraft's so-called sensible guidelines. So what should it be labeled? Unreasonable food? Ridiculously non-nutritious food? Maybe with just a skull-and-crossbones to warn you off?

As for it's sensible guidelines, a Kraft "convenient meal product" earns the label "sensible" if it meets one of the following criteria:
  • Free of, low in, or at least 25% less, when compared to similar products in the category, in at least (or just) one of the following: calories, fat, saturated fat, sugar or sodium
  • Or, contain less than 35% calories from fat
  • Or, meets the definition of lean or extra lean
Translation: A "Lunchable" can be called "sensible" if it's less a junk food than other Lunchables.

A Lunchable can also get the sensible designation if Kraft supplements it with 10% of daily needs of a few vitamins or minerals, and the food does not exceed 600 calories/serving and 960 mg of sodium, among other sky-high limits.

Kraft also, by the way, pats itself on the back for advertising only Sensible Solution products to children between 6 and 12. Teenagers are obviously open season.

What's truly sad is that Kraft was actually honored in 2005 at a Nutrition & Obesity Summit convened by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for creating its Sensible Solution products.

What would truly be honorable for Kraft would be to totally overhaul the contents of all its Lunchables or ditch them completely. That might actually do some good.

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