In the 1950's the Quaker Oats Company, MIT, and Harvard wanted to determine how minerals were metabolized in the body of children. Quaker Oats planned to use this research for future advertising campaigns. The experiments were performed at the Walter E. Fernald State School in Waltham, Massachusetts. At least 54 institutionalized children were fed doses of radiation with their breakfast cereal. The parents of the children were asked for permission for their children to be members of a science club and participate in research. Being a member of a science club would give the children special privileges. The parents were told the children would be fed a healthy diet, high in nutrients. The parents were not informed that the healthy diet included radioactive calcium and iron.
In 1995 a lawsuit was brought against the involved parties. The lawsuit was settled on December 31st 1997.
The levels of radiation the children were exposed to were below all dangerous levels by 1950s and current standards. The risks were very low, and I am not aware of any resulting problems. However the use of children, or anyone, without proper consent is unconscionable.
Market research is a powerful tool, and in the 1950s is was one that people were just beginning to use. All too often people were experimented on without consent. This is a pattern that has been discouraged and forbidden in many places, but still lives on.
-Professor (Uncle) Walter