Have you ever wondered where breakfast cereal came from? Nearly everybody eats it nowadays and we are told it is a wholesome way to start the day, but who invented it and why? It will probably come as no surprise to learn that the first breakfast cereal was invented by a man called John Harvey Kellogg in 1878. It will probably come as quite a surprise to learn why he did it.
Kellogg was an American medical doctor of some renown and you may be thinking that, as a doctor, he devised Corn Flakes for sound nutritional reasons. Sadly, you could not be further from the truth. As well as being a doctor, he was also a religious zealot in the church of the Seventh Day Adventists. They take Christian scripture literally and have a strong emphasis on diet and health. Dr. Kellogg took these beliefs to extremes. Like many other members of his church, he regarded passion and sexual arousal as sins and the greatest sin of all was masturbation. He went to great lengths to try to stop it. He wrote a booklet entitled ‘The Rehabilitation of Masturbators’, where he described the extreme measures, even mutilation, he used on both sexes to curtail this ‘sin’. He was an advocate of circumcising young boys and applying phenol to a young woman’s clitoris to make the dreaded habit much more difficult. He sometimes sowed silver thread into the foreskin of boys so that erections were painful. He had a wife but never consummated his marriage because he thought it was sinful and they adopted their children.
Corn Flakes were invented as part of his strategy against self-gratification. He strongly believed that completely bland foods would decrease, or prevent, sexual arousal and that strong (nutrient dense) foods like meat would increase physical excitement. So, Corn Flakes were designed from the start to be as bland as possible in the belief that a lack of taste and nutritional quality would diminish normal human passions. His brother, William, who was less of a zealot and more of a business man, started the Kellogg’s company to sell bland, processed flakes of corn. William wanted to add sugar to the flakes to make them palatable but John wanted blandness above anything else. Eventually, William got his way and they now come sprayed with sugar. To make them slightly more nutritious than the cardboard box they come in, they are also sprayed with a few vitamins. This allows the Kellogg’s Company to make the dubious claim that dried flakes of corn might be healthy.
I find it ironic that millions of families all over the world give their children Kellogg’s cereals every morning without realising the sinister intentions behind their invention. The real irony is, that in a much less dramatic and obvious way, he is still managing to damage children’s health and well-being with a daily dose of sugar laden junk food.