Were Corn Flakes, the cereal product that launched the Kellogg Company, invented to "kill the libido" of patients at a health resort? No, that's not true: Several versions of the Kellogg Company's website attribute the creation of the cereal to an accident. Although John Harvey Kellogg, who is often credited as the creator of the cereal, was known for his unusual beliefs about sexual health, there is no historical evidence that lowering individuals' sex drives was the explicit intention of Corn Flakes.
The claim appeared in a reel published on Facebook on March 19, 2023. The narrator of the reel opened:
Did you know that Corn Flakes were originally developed to kill the libido of the patients at the Battle Creek Sanitarium?
This is what the post looked like on Facebook at the time of writing:
(Source: Facebook screenshot taken on Wed Mar 22 23:47:02 2023 UTC)
There are several versions of the story of the creation of Corn Flakes. According to information on the U.S.-based Kellogg Company website, Corn Flakes were created by Will Keith Kellogg in 1894. The "Battle Creek Toasted Corn Flake Company" opened in 1906 in Battle Creek, Michigan.
However, Dr. Howard Markel, a physician, medical historian and the George E. Wantz Professor of the History of Medicine at the University of Michigan who wrote "The Kelloggs: The Battling Brothers of Battle Creek," attributes the invention to Will Keith Kellogg's older physician brother, John Harvey Kellogg. John Harvey Kellogg was in charge of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a health resort developed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a religious group that John Harvey Kellogg was affiliated with at the time. The cereal was provided to patients at the resort before becoming mass-marketed in the early 20th century. The two brothers had a contentious relationship over the use of the Kellogg family name and Will Keith Kellogg ultimately was at the helm of the business.
During a 2017 interview with NPR's "Fresh Air" about his book, Markel contended that John Harvey Kellogg was behind several digestible food recipes -- including Corn Flakes -- and that his brother Will Keith Kellogg was behind the development of the company. John Harvey Kellogg was known for his philosophy of "biologic living," which included some forward-thinking -- and some unconventional -- beliefs about wellness. Markel said:
Dr. Kellogg was all about preventing these diseases before they ever happened by living a healthy life. And that included exercise, a lot of vigorous physical activity, eating a grain and vegetable diet, avoiding animal fats or meats - or as he called it, 'flesh-eating', avoiding that - no alcohol, no caffeine of any kind.
He also was very chaste and reminded his - both his readers and his followers that sex outside the marriage, of course, was not a good idea, but sex for anything other than procreation really sapped the soul and sapped the spirit. And, of course, he was very much opposed to masturbation of any kind, something he wrote about extensively and called 'the solitary vice'.
John Harvey Kellogg was granted the patent for "FLAKED CEREALS AND PROCESS OF PREPARING SAME" in 1896. However, nowhere in the patent -- or elsewhere -- is there credible evidence that Corn Flakes were invented to temper sexual energy.
Versions of the Kellogg Company website based in other countries including Ireland, South Africa and Canada partially credit both brothers for the accidental invention, stating that they failed an attempt to make another recipe and instead, flaked wheat berries. According to Markel, John Harvey Kellogg said that he conceived of the idea in a dream.
Variations of the sex-drive claim have appeared online before this Facebook post. In 2019, Snopes reported that a Mental Floss article published in 2012 was behind the idea that Corn Flakes, along with "a few different flaked grain breakfast cereals" were developed "as healthy, ready-to-eat anti-masturbatory morning meals."
Lead Stories reached out to the Kellogg Company for comment on the claim and will update the story with any response.
Lead Stories previously debunked a claim that one of the Kellogg Company's Rice Krispies cartoon mascots, Pop, was rebranded as a transgender character. That fact check can be found here.