Did Quaker Oats Experiment On Children With Radioactive Cereal?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends related to cuisine (chefs, dishes, etc.) and whether they are true or false.

CUISINE URBAN LEGEND: Quaker Oats ran experiments on children using radioactive cereal.

In 1877, Henry D. Seymour and William Heston formed what would become the Quaker Oats Company, which was famous for its oatmeal (it is STILL famous for its oatmeal, but nowadays there are a lot more breakfast options being mass-produced. Back in the turn of the 20th Century, the pickings were a good deal less robust, so Quaker Oats was a HUGE deal).

In the 1890s, their biggest competitor, the breakfast porridge known as Cream of Wheat, debuted.

The two companies fought tooth and nail as the two major mass produced breakfast meals of the early 20th Century and when World War II ended and the boom in both suburban living and kids being born in general made breakfast an even bigger deal. Quaker Oats’ sales reached almost $300 million after the War. One of their biggest sales pitches was how healthy oatmeal was, as this was around the time that dietary guidelines were actually pushed by the government for the first time.

Thus, it was a big blow when a study announced that high levels of phytate (which would be found in oats) could interfere with the absorption of iron in the body, something that was not the case with wheat. So suddenly Cream of Wheat had a big feather in its health cap that it could use against Quaker Oats.

So Quaker Oats decided to fund an experiment to prove that oatmeal delivered iron to the body fine, while also showing that oatmeal did similar things for calcium. HOW they went about it was very, very messed up and eventually cost the company over a million dollars due to a lawsuit.
Continue reading “Did Quaker Oats Experiment On Children With Radioactive Cereal?”