The mystery of the Central Ohio cereal killer

By Matt Reese

My kids love Life — cereal.

It was nearly bedtime for our two children and they wanted a snack. After debating the merits of candy, ice cream or cookies before bed, I convinced the children that some delicious Life cereal was the best way to go.

Is life like a bowl of Life?

I got the box out of the cupboard that I had put there after breakfast that morning. I opened it up and poured out some of its contents into a bowl with an unsettling “thwump” sound. I looked in the bowl to find a coagulated mass of partially crumpled up Life cereal. I poked it to find that it was sort of gooshey and quite unappetizing in every way.

My mind started racing to assess the potential causes of this horror wrapped up in a cereal box. Had this been festering in there for weeks (or months) since it was packaged? What were the health implications since we’d eaten from this box for breakfast? Did I need to call the emergency room? The cereal manufacturer? If we survived the incident, could we get a free Life-time supply?

I shook the box around and peered deep into its contents, afraid of what I might find. I put my hand in and fished around a bit, finding a little more of the gooshey crumbled Life and no answers. The children saw my concern as I scanned the box for a Life support hotline to call about the gooshey cereal emergency.

Wait. I stopped my search and directed a suspicious stare in the direction of the children. That was all it took.

“But daddy, he made me do it,” my four-year-old daughter said while pointing at her younger brother.

Suddenly, the coagulated cereal plot had thickened.

“He made you do what?”

“He poured too much cereal into my milk and made me pour it back in the box.”

Apparently, that morning when I had gone to the barn to do chores, and their mother was upstairs, our daughter had poured the excess Life along with a bowl full of milk back into the box. I returned to close up the box and put it away — hence, coagulated, gooshey cereal that falls into the bowl with an unsettling “thwump.” Mystery solved.

When it comes to something as important, and personal, as our food, it is very easy to fear the worst and jump to conclusions that may be inaccurate. People do this all the time.

A group of “Supermoms against Superbugs” recently went to Washington, D.C. to voice their concern about what antibiotic use in livestock is doing to the health of their children. The supermoms had more than 50 meetings with house and Senate staff, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the White House Domestic Policy Council with the goal of convincing legislators to increase regulations on antibiotic use in animal agriculture.

While it is very important for mothers to be concerned with the quality and safety of the food for their families, it is also very important that they are properly informed about the issues regarding their food. This particular group of “supermoms” was organized in part by the Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming, the group behind a notoriously biased review of the literature for antibiotic use in livestock. The research they cite is real, but they selected only the research that supports their pro-regulatory take on the issue. They conveniently omit the other side of the research that makes this a truly complex debate with strong science supporting differing opinions. So, while the passion of these “supermoms” is to be commended, it would be more productive and beneficial for everyone involved if they were wholly informed. In essence, they are calling the Life hotline before questioning the kids about the mysterious cereal malady, so to speak.

Learning the whole story about food and agricultural issues is not always an easy thing to do, and it is great to see increasing efforts in the farm community to address the misinformation out there. After all, for farmers and consumers alike, knowing the whole story before jumping to conclusions is the best way to handle whatever it is that Life throws your way, especially if it is a suspicious bowl of cereal.

Cereal killer?

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One comment

  1. Great story, I immediately pictured a big dead rat. So yeah you are spot on saying how society’s first instinct is to think the worst. All of us do need to sit down and review ALL sides and ALL information about agriculture and food safety, and then RATIONALLY come up with a plan that works for the best interest of ALL humans.

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