Why Were Corn Flakes Invented?

Corn flakes, or cornflakes, are a breakfast cereal made by toasting flakes of corn (maize). Image credit: Gyan Pratim Raichoudhury Shutterstock.com
Corn flakes, or cornflakes, are a breakfast cereal made by toasting flakes of corn (maize). Image credit: Gyan Pratim Raichoudhury Shutterstock.com
  • JH Kellogg was a Seventh Day Adventist.
  • JH Kellogg had eight children.
  • Corn Flakes were indeed invented as a morning meal that would help you avoid sin.

Corn Flakes or “anti-Porn Flakes”? If you have surfed around the internet enough you might have found some strange claims circulating as to why the popular cereal Corn Flakes was really invented. In fact, if you Google the very words, “why were Corn Flakes invented?” the answer you received may read, “John Harvey Kellogg was born today in 1852. He invented Cornflakes in 1878 in the hope that plain food would stop people masturbating. Mr Kellogg, the man who created Corn Flakes, produced the cereal in the late 19th century and marketed it as a “healthy, ready-to-eat anti-masturbatory morning meal”. 

Seriously? Did the infamous Kellogg really create your familiar, crunchy breakfast treat for this shocking reason? According to Snopes.com, this claim is both false and true. 

Religion And Unstimulating Foods 

Portrait of John Harvey Kellogg. Image credit: F. E. Doty/Public domain

John Harvey Kellogg was a unique person, to say the least. He is said to have often dressed in a white suit and gone about town with a cockatoo on his shoulder, as he inspired crowds of people to follow his “healthy way” of life. He was a widely successful businessman and the manager of the Battle Creek Sanitarium, a world-renowned health resort in Michigan that began in 1866 based on the health principles of the Seventh-day Adventists Church. 

Early Kellogg's Corn Flakes advertisement

According to Snopes.com, Kellogg never explicitly marketed Corn Flakes as an “anti-masturbatory morning meal”, using those specific words. As is easy to imagine, the general public likely would not have received this message well in the late 1800s, nor today. 

Kellogg did ascribe to some rather strange outlooks on life, however. As an adult, Kellogg was quite open about the ills and evils of masturbation when it came to both boys and girls. 

Avoiding Sin

Packets of Kellogg cereal products displayed on shelves of a supermarket. Image credit: Brookgardener/Shutterstock.com

What does this have to do with food? 

In a way, Kellogg was a product of his time. In the 1850s, wealthy people in Britain and the US were exploring excesses by eating “everything” for breakfast. This could sometimes include roasted meat, pastries, breads, cold cuts, and steaks. There was no breakfast cereal besides hot oats, at the time. Kellogg saw these indulgences as something that led to sin. He described himself as a practicing vegetarian, and eschewed not only meat but coffee, tea, spices- generally anything that might be too “stimulating” for his system. Plain food, in his view, was what your body needs in order to be healthy, and moveover,  to kill off unwanted sexual desires. Strange but true. 

In this way, you can say that Kellogg invented Corn Flakes as a way of reforming the morning eating habits of Americans, which he hoped would lead to a more chaste lifestyle. So, yes, it can be said that cornflakes actually were invented to prevent masturbation. 


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