RFF #96 – In the 1950s, Quaker Oats Co. sponsored research that fed radioactive minerals to institutionalized children

The unsuspecting boys were told that they were going to be part of a “Science Club.” Meanwhile, the parents were told that their children would be fed a diet high in nutrients, which technically was true, but of course they failed to mention that the nutrients were radioactively labelled!

In case you’re wondering, researchers radioactively labelled the nutrients to enable them to track their absorption in the body. One theory is that they wanted to ensure that the cereal didn’t decrease the absorption of calcium and iron in fortified milk.

Despite the fact that the children received a dose of radiation that is equivalent to 50 chest x-rays, the task force that investigated this in the 1990s concluded that “no significant health effects were incurred.” Nevertheless, some of the subjects were financially compensated due to the lack of informed consent.

Filling out ethics applications is a task that most scientists dread. Unfortunately, it’s something I’ve been doing for the past few days. Nevertheless, stories such as this remind one of the importance of transparency in research, and thus makes the task slightly less onerous.

I learned about this fact from: A “Cold Case Episode” oddly enough, and http://tech.mit.edu/V115/N49/radiation.49n.html and http://www.disclose.tv/forum/the-fernald-experiments-t76342.html

RFF#40 – In 1955, the “prize” inside the Quaker Oats cereal box was a deed for one square inch of land in the Yukon

At the time, Quaker Oats had a radio show called “Mountie in the Yukon”, and after struggling to find a way to promote Quaker Oats, they came up with the perfect idea…every box of Quaker oats would contain a deed for a piece of land where the fictional show took place.

The original deed that appeared in 1955 cereal boxes

Apparently, it was one of the most successful sales promotions in North American business history, all of the boxes (containing deeds) were sold within weeks.


Unfortunately, the deeds were never formally registered, and as a result, no one ever actually owned the land. In 1965, the company that was established to handle the land affairs went out of business, and the Canadian government repossessed all of the land.

Apparently thousands of supposed “land owners” still write to officials in the Yukon, inquiring about their property.

I learned about this fact from: http://www.yukoninfo.com/klondikebiginch.htm

Photo credit: http://www.yukoninfo.com/klondikebiginch.htm

RFF#39 – In 1902, the “prize” inside the Quaker Oats cereal box was a deed to a small piece of land

Apparently they were very small lots (some as small as 100 square feet) in Milford, Connecticut. Very few people claimed their prize, which required you to mail the box top to New York , where the deed was then forwarded to Milford to be registered. As a result, in the 1970s developers foreclosed the land to make way for a factory.

Gee, this makes the sparkly crayon I once got in a cereal box seem pretty dingy. Nevertheless, this wasn’t the only time Quaker Oats gave land away…more on that in tomorrow’s post.

I learned about this fact from: http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Oatmeal-lots-gave-officials-indigestion-687006.php

RFF#30 – John Harvey Kellogg was a physician and he invented corn flakes in 1895 as a healthy breakfast for his patients

Kellogg was the director of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a long-term hospital he ran using holistic methods. As a Seventh-day Adventist he believed in, and practiced vegetarianism, abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, as well as regular exercise and enemas.

While Kellogg didn’t want to add sugar to corn flakes, his brother did. This dispute led them to establish separate companies. Unfortunately, his brother’s corn flakes (containing sugar) would eventually become the Kellogg Company staple.

Here’s the best part…Kellogg’s rival, Post Cereals, was started by one of Kellogg’s patients, Charles William Post. And according to Kellogg, Post stole the recipe from the safe in his office.

I learned about this fact from: “Salt, Sugar, Fat – How the Food Giants Hooked Us” by Michael Moss and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harvey_Kellogg