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6 Controversial Moments in the World of Breakfast Cereal

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1. “Fortified” Cereal Scandal Rocks Scandinavia

Scandinavia has long been home to some of Europe’s lowest obesity rates, but they certainly don’t have diet cereal Special K to thank. In 2004, Denmark embarked on a ban of Kellogg’s enriched cereals like Special K, which contain added vitamins. The Danes claimed that the high levels of vitamin B, calcium, folic acid, and iron added to such cereals could reach toxic levels if consumed on a daily basis. As a result of the toxins, young children could be at risk for liver and kidney damage. While a stand so seemingly anti-diet-food may seem shocking for a nation that once instituted a "fat tax" to considerably raise the prices of fatty foods, some company officials blamed Denmark’s persnickety reputation. Chris Wermann, former director of Kellogg’s corporate affairs in Europe, noted, “The Danish diet is pretty frugal or austere at the best of times. They’re protective of their diet.” Wermann went on to say that the cereal giant is, nevertheless, “incredulous” of the ban, adding that the extra minerals only accounted for less than 25 percent of the daily allowance.

The ban also garnered support among Denmark’s Dutch neighbors. In an episode that aired on October 15, 2009, the Dutch television show Keuringsdienst van Waarde examined Kellogg’s nutritional claims, specifically the addition of iron to “fortified” cereals like Special K. The show provided evidence that the claim of “iron” added to Special K was a bit deceptive; the scientists alleged that the cereal contained traces of metallic iron, rather than the compounds found naturally in spinach and red meat. When asked about it, a Kellogg’s telephone helpdesk employee claimed the ingredients in the cereal to be a company secret. Dutch food authorities later concluded that there is little danger in consuming the cereal, as long as Kellogg’s stays within legal limits. (And guess what? All iron-fortified cereals contain tiny metal pieces.)

2. Meet So-Hi

Today we may know Lucky the Leprechaun as our resident exaggeratedly ethnic cereal mascot, but 50 years ago, there was a different sheriff in town—or sensei, or head ninja, or some other ambiguously Asian title. Point is, in the 1950s and '60s, the popular Post cereal Sugar-Coated Rice Krinkles (think Rice Krispies crossed with Frosted Flakes) was touted by a squinty-eyed, quaintly “oriental” mascot named So-Hi.

So-Hi, essentially a younger, more chipper version of Mickey Rooney’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, spouted charmingly pronoun-less phrases like, “Today, So-Hi have exciting story to tell about beautiful new Ford Mustang Car!” and, “You go ‘vroom, vroom’ when you get free car inside Post Rice Krinkles!” with a few “Ah-so’s” thrown in for good measure. For a time, he even came with his own rickshaw.

So-Hi ruled the airwaves and cereal aisles from the '50s to the early '60s, when he was replaced by a terrifying clown.

Rice Krinkles were taken off the market altogether in 1969 to make room for the fruity, gravelly versions we now know as Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles.

3. Not so “natural”

Scandinavians weren’t the only ones to ever scrutinize Kellogg’s cereal. In 2011, the Kellogg’s-owned health food titan Kashi came under fire for some allegedly dubious advertising. Specifically, the Cornucopia Institute—a farm policy watch-dog group—released a report [PDF] claiming that Kashi cereal wasn’t as natural as it seemed. Besides pointing out that using the label “natural” in food advertising is effectively meaningless (very few federal standards for such “naturalness” actually exist), the study found that “natural” cereals, like some under the Kashi brand, contained GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in their ingredients.

The New York Times reported this to widespread consumer outrage, prompting many angry health nuts to take to Kashi’s Facebook page and express their disgust: “All natural, yet genetically modified?”… “I've been a loyal Kashi consumer for years, but unless I see a USDA Certified Organic seal, I won't be buying any more of your products. After the Cornucopia Institute report, I just can't justify spending more money on Kashi when you use the same ingredients as any other company."

Kashi quickly went on the defensive, owning up to some of the claims; a representative admitted that, “While it’s likely that some of our foods contain GMOs, the main reason for that is because in North America, well over 80 percent of many crops, including soybeans, are grown using GMOs. Factors outside our control ... have led to an environment where GMOs are not sufficiently controlled.” And so a vicious back-and-forth ensued between Kashi and the Cornucopia Institute, eventually ending with Kashi vowing to produce new cereals that are Non-GMO Project verified. With 11 different GMO-free cereals on the shelf to date, Kashi proved that one should never underestimate the power of an angry Facebook post.

4. Elijah’s Manna

Back in the late 1800s, the classic cereal we know as “cornflakes” was invented in the Battle Creek, Michigan sanitarium run by Seventh-Day Adventist Dr. John Harvey Kellogg and his brother, Will Keith Kellogg. In an effort to acclimate the patients to the church-recommended vegetarian lifestyle, the duo experimented with foodstuffs derived from grains such as wheat, oats, barley, and corn. After accidentally discovering a process that “flaked” wheat berries, the brothers landed on a palatable formula for flaked corn.

The Kelloggs created cornflakes in 1904 and served them to patients at the sanitarium, but didn't market the cereal commercially until 1906; this allowed a former patient named C.W. Post to create his own version and start shilling it to the masses. Shortly after inventing Grape Nuts cereal, Post decided to try his hand at cornflakes, which he debuted under the name Elijah’s Manna. This biblically-named cereal—its box depicting the prophet Elijah hand-feeding manna to a birdsparked controversy in religious communities across the nation, where it was denounced as sacrilegious. Across the pond, Elijah’s Manna was even barred from being imported into Britain. Post fervently defended his brand, saying, “Perhaps no one should eat angel food cake, enjoy Adam's ale, live in St. Paul, nor work for Bethlehem Steel ... one should have his Adam's apple removed and never again name a child for the good people of the bible.” But it was too late; Elijah’s Manna was already marked as heretic, and in 1908, Post begrudgingly changed the product’s name to the more recognizable, less incendiary Post Toasties. The prophet Elijah was ousted in favor of Mickey Mouse.

5. Berry Sneaky

Adding fruit to your cereal is a healthy choice, but what if that “fruit” is mostly other stuff? Other stuff like corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors, and food dye blue no. 2? A 2012 report by the nonprofit Consumer Wellness Center stated that such fruit imposters are alarmingly common in breakfast cereals. According to the report, the claim of “real fruit!” in many well-known brands may actually refer to fruit “bits” that are mostly sugar and dye, with a dash of fruit juice thrown in for flavoring. For example, the blueberry variety of Frosted Mini Wheats contains no actual blueberries—instead, the box lists an ingredient called “blueberry crunchlets” made from soybean oil, sugar, red no. 40 and blue no. 2.

If that seems like a lot of engineering to recreate something already found in nature, you’re probably right; as Mike Adams, author of the report, explained, “[…] real blueberries are expensive. And artificial blueberry bits, made with sugar, partially hydrogenated oils and artificial colors, are dirt cheap. If these companies can fool consumers into thinking they're buying real blueberries in their products, they can command a price premium that translates into increased profits.” However, the report did offer a simple solution for those wishing to avoid berry imposters: read the ingredients list. If it contains red or blue food dyes, those berries are probably fakes.

6. “Just Checking” keeps bigots in check

An ad for a popular cereal depicts a biracial couple, only to be received with widespread outrage. If that sounds familiar, it’s not because you read it in a history book. No, a 2013 Cheerios commercial featuring an interracial family spurred so many hateful comments, ranging from peeved to extreme (some included talk of Nazis and genocide), that its YouTube comments section had to be disabled. Some credit the amount of racist backlash to its exposure on YouTube, which many online commenters see as an anonymous soapbox from which to spout the most extreme views with little threat of accountability.

The commercial, titled “Just Checking,” currently has over 4 million views—fortunately, for every commenter who claimed the commercial “made [them] want to vomit,” there were many more who were grateful for the bi-racial representation in the ad. Said one viewer, “Having been mixed in the '70s, I'd like to thank everyone at Cheerios for making a commercial with an interracial couple! Going to buy boxes today! Many thanks for reflecting what my family looked like.” Cheerios stayed calm amidst the backlash; as vice president of marketing for General Mills Camille Gibson told Gawker, “Consumers have responded positively to our new Cheerios ad. At Cheerios, we know there are many kinds of families and we celebrate them all." In final response to the outcry, another YouTube video was made, showing the reactions of children after watching the commercial. They didn't see what all the fuss was about.

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Hate Waiting at Baggage Claim? Here's How to Make Sure Your Suitcase Arrives First
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Air travel involves plenty of waiting, from standing in long security lines to preparing for takeoff. And even after you land, your trip is stalled until you locate your luggage on the carousel. Luckily for impatient fliers, there are several ways to game the system and ensure a speedy suitcase delivery once you step off the plane, according to Travel + Leisure.

To score true VIP luggage treatment, ask the representative behind the check-in counter if they can attach a “fragile” sticker to your bag. Suitcases with these kinds of labels are often loaded last and unloaded first. (Plus, they receive the type of kid-glove treatment that ultimately helps them last longer.)

Keep in mind, however, that you’ll need a new tag each time you fly. If it looks old, or was issued by a different airline, the crew might not pay attention to it, according to Condé Nast Traveler. Also, consider upping your suitcase game, as quality, hard-shell bags look like they contain delicate or important items. Their appearance—along with the fragile sticker—will inspire baggage handlers to give them special treatment.

Another trick that can shave a few minutes off your wait time is making sure you're the last person to check in, instead of rushing to be first. If you can't resist getting to the airport early, try asking if you can check it at the gate. This could make your bag one of the last on the plane, and thus one of the first taken out. This method isn't surefire, however, as loading and unloading systems vary among flights.

And if all else fails, Thrillist advises that you try upgrading your flight. Some airlines give priority to bags that belong to elite travelers and business class, meaning they’ll be stored separately from other luggage and come out first. Good luck! No matter what happens, at least you can't have it worse than the lady who had to wait 20 years for her bag to show up.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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25 Things You Might Not Know About Home Alone
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On November 16, 1990, what appeared to be a fun-filled little family yarn about a kid left to his own devices at Christmastime and forced to fend off a couple of bungling burglars, became an instant classic. Today, no holiday movie marathon is complete without a viewing of Home Alone, the movie that turned Macaulay Culkin into one of the biggest kid stars of all time. And while you may be able to recite its dialogue line for line, here are 25 things you might not know about the John Hughes-penned picture. So settle in and enjoy, ya filthy animals. 

1. WITHOUT UNCLE BUCK, THERE’D BE NO HOME ALONE.

The idea for Home Alone occurred to John Hughes during the making of Uncle Buck, which also starred Macaulay Culkin. Always game to play the precocious one, there’s a scene in which Culkin’s character interrogates a potential babysitter through a mail slot. In Home Alone, Culkin has a similar confrontation with Daniel Stern, this time via a doggie door.

2. THE ROLE OF KEVIN WAS WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR MACAULAY CULKIN.

But that didn't stop director Chris Columbus from auditioning more than 100 other rascally pre-teens for the part. Which really was all for naught, as Culkin nailed the role.

3. MACAULAY WASN’T THE ONLY CULKIN TO APPEAR IN THE FILM.


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Macaulay;'s younger brother Kieran also landed a part as Kevin’s bed-wetting cousin, Fuller. Though the film marked Kieran’s acting debut, he has since gone on to build an impressive career for himself in movies like The Cider House Rules, Igby Goes Down, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

4. CASTING CULKIN TAUGHT CHRIS COLUMBUS A VERY IMPORTANT LESSON.

Since Home Alone, Columbus (who also wrote the scripts for Gremlins and The Goonies) has gone on to become one of Hollywood’s premier family-friendly moviemakers as the director of Home Alone 2, Mrs. Doubtfire, and two movies in the Harry Potter franchise. But one lesson he learned from Home Alone is that when you agree to work with a kid actor, you’re also agreeing to work with his or her family.

“I was much younger and I was really too naive to think about the family environment as well,” Columbus told The Guardian in 2013. “We didn't know that much about the family at the beginning; as we were shooting, we learned a little more. The stories are hair-raising. I was casting a kid who truly had a troubled family life.” In 1995, Culkin’s parents, who were never married, engaged in a very public—and nasty—legal battle over his fortune. 

5. THE FILM IS A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD HOLDER.

In its opening weekend, Home Alone topped the box office, making $17,081,997 in 1202 theaters. The movie maintained its number one spot for a full 12 weeks and remained in the top 10 until June of the following year. It became the highest grossing film of 1990 and earned a Guinness World Record as the highest-grossing live-action comedy ever domestically.

6. THE MOVIE’S UNPRECEDENTED SUCCESS LED TO ITS TITLE BECOMING A VERB.


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In his book The Big Picture: Who Killed Hollywood? And Other Essays, two-time Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman admitted that the unexpected success of Home Alone contributed a new phrase to the Hollywood lexicon: to be Home Aloned, meaning that other films suffered at the box office because of Home Alone’s long and successful run. “More than one executive said to me, ‘My picture did 40, but it would have done 50 if it hadn’t been Home Aloned,’” wrote Goldman.

7. IT SPAWNED MORE THAN A SEQUEL.

While all of the main, original cast members reprised their roles for Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (with Columbus again directing a script by Hughes), the success of the original led to a full-on franchise, complete with four sequels, three video games, two board games, a novelization, and other kid-friendly merchandise (including the Talkboy). 

8. POLAND LOVES THE MCCALLISTERS.

Showings of Home Alone have become a Christmas tradition in Poland, where the film has aired on national television since the early 1990s. And its popularity has only increased. In 2011 more than five million people tuned in to watch it, making it the most watched show to air during the season. 

9. THE MCCALLISTER HOME HAS BECOME A MAJOR TOURIST ATTRACTION.


A Syn via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

Located at 671 Lincoln Avenue in Winnetka, Illinois, the kitchen, main staircase, and ground-floor landing seen in the film were all shot in this five-bedroom residence. (The dining room and all other first-floor rooms, with the exception of the kitchen, were shot on a soundstage.) In 2012, John and Cynthia Abendshien, who owned the home when it was used as one of the film’s locations, sold the property for $1.585 million.

10. KEVIN’S TREE HOUSE WAS NOT PART OF THE DEAL.

Kevin’s backyard tree house was not originally part of the property. It was constructed specifically for the movie and demolished once filming ended. 

11. ALL OF THE FILM WAS SHOT IN THE CHICAGO AREA.

Though the main plot point is that that McCallister family is in Paris while Kevin’s back home in Illinois, the production was shot entirely within the Chicago area. The scenes supposedly set at Paris-Orly Airport were shot at O’Hare International Airport. And those luxurious business class seats they’re taking to Paris? Those were built on the basketball court of a local high school—the same school where the scene in which Kevin is running through a flooded basement was filmed (the “basement” in question was actually the school’s swimming pool). 

12. ROBERT DE NIRO TURNED DOWN THE ROLE OF HARRY LIME.


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As did Jon Lovitz. Then Joe Pesci swept in and made the part his own. Bonus fun fact: The character is a slight homage to Orson Welles. (It was the name of Welles’ character in Carol Reed’s The Third Man.) 

13. JOE PESCI GOT ALL METHOD ON MACAULAY CULKIN.

In order to get the most authentic performance possible, Joe Pesci did his best to avoid Macaulay Culkin on the set so that the young actor would indeed be afraid of him. And no one would blame the young actor for being a bit petrified, as he still bears the physical scar from one accidental altercation. “In the first Home Alone, they hung me up on a coat hook, and Pesci says, ‘I’m gonna bite all your fingers off, one at a time,’” Culkin recalled to Rule Forty Two. “And during one of the rehearsals, he bit me, and it broke the skin.” 

14. PESCI WASN’T USED TO THE WHOLE “FAMILY-FRIENDLY” THING.

Considering that Pesci’s best known for playing the heavy in movies like Raging Bull, Goodfellas, and Casino, it’s understandable that he wasn’t quite used to the whole family-friendly atmosphere on the set of Home Alone—and dropped a few f-bombs as a result of that. Columbus tried to curb Pesci’s four-letter-word tendency by suggesting he use the word “fridge” instead. 

15. DANIEL STERN HAD A FOUR-LETTER WORD SLIP-UP, TOO.


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And it wasn’t cut out of the film. He utters the word “s***” when attempting to retrieve his shoe through the doggie door (look for it at the 55:27 mark on the DVD). 

16. IN REAL LIFE, HARRY AND MARV MAY NOT HAVE SURVIVED KEVIN’S ATTACK.

BB gun shots to the forehead and groin? A steaming hot iron and can of paint to the face? A flaming blowtorch to the scalp? The Wet Bandits endure an awful lot of violence at the hands of a single eight-year-old. So much so that neither one of them should have been walking—let alone conscious—by the end of the night. In 2012, Dr. Ryan St. Clair diagnosed the likely outcome of their injuries at The Week. While a read-through of the entire article is well worth your time, here are a few of the highlights: That iron should have caused a “blowout fracture,” leading to “serious disfigurement and debilitating double vision if not repaired properly.” And the blowtorch? According to Dr. St. Clair, “The skin and bone tissue on Harry's skull will be so damaged and rotted that his skull bone is essentially dying and will likely require a transplant.” 

17. THE ORNAMENTS THAT MARV STEPS ON WOULD CAUSE THE LEAST AMOUNT OF DAMAGE.

"Walking on ornaments seems pretty insignificant compared to everything else we've seen so far,” said Dr. St. Clair. “If I was Marv, I'd be more concerned about my facial fractures.” Fortunately, the "glass" ornaments in question were actually made of candy. (But just to be on the safe side, Stern wore rubber feet for his barefoot scenes.)

18. THE TARANTULA ON STERN’S FACE? YEP, THAT WAS REAL.


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At one point, Kevin places a tarantula on Marv’s face. And it was indeed a real spider (Daniel Stern agreed to let it happen—but he’d only allow for one take). What wasn’t real? That blood-curdling scream. In order to not frighten the spider, Stern had to mime the scream and have the sound dubbed in later.

19. JOHN CANDY WRAPPED IN ONE DAY.

But what a long day it was: Twenty-three hours to be exact. Candy was a regular in many of John Hughes’ movies, and Gus Polinski—the polka-playing nice guy he plays in Home Alone—was inspired by his character in Planes, Trains & Automobiles. 

20. KEVIN’S OLDER SISTER IS A JUDO CHAMP.

Two years after appearing in Home Alone, Hillary Wolf—who played Kevin’s older sister Megan—landed the lead in Joan Micklin Silver’s Big Girls Don’t Cry… They Get Even. She also appeared in Home Alone 2, but hasn’t been seen on the big screen since. But there’s a good reason for her absence: In 1996 and 2000, she was a member of the Summer Olympic Judo team for the U.S. 

21. DON’T BOTHER TRYING TO FIND ANGELS WITH FILTHY SOULS.

The Jimmy Cagney-like gangster movie that Kevin channels as his inspiration throughout Home Alone? Don’t bother searching for it on eBay. It’s not real. Nor is its sequel, Angels With Even Filthier Souls, which is featured in Home Alone 2. 

22. OLD MAN MARLEY WASN'T IN THE ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY.

Kevin’s allegedly scary neighbor, who eventually teaches him the importance of family, wasn’t a character in the original script. He was added at the suggestion of Columbus, who thought the film could do with a stronger dose of sentimentality.

23. THE LYRIC OPERA OF CHICAGO BENEFITED FROM THE MOVIE’S SNOWFALL.

When filming of Home Alone wrapped, the production donated some of the artificial snow they had created (the stuff made from wax and plastic) to the Lyric Opera of Chicago. It has since been used in a number of their productions.

24. MARV WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE GOTTEN A SPINOFF.

Greg Beeman’s 1995 film Bushwhacked, which stars Daniel Stern as a delivery guy on the run after being framed for murder, was originally intended to be a spinoff of Home Alone. The storyline would have been essentially the same: after giving up a life of crime, Marv would have been framed for the same murder.

25. IF YOU BELIEVE THAT ELVIS IS STILL ALIVE, THEN YOU MIGHT BELIEVE THAT HE IS IN HOME ALONE.

No hit movie would be complete without a great little conspiracy theory. And in the case of Home Alone, it’s that Elvis Presley—who (allegedly?) died in 1977—makes a cameo in the film. Yes, that’s right. The King is alive and well. And making a living as a Hollywood extra.

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