Poking a Hole in Cheerios

June 10th, 2009 | Sources: Bloomberg, Wall Street Journal

Subjects: ,

america'sbreakfastThe FDA has warned General Mills that claims about heart benefits appearing on Cheerios boxes violate federal laws.

In particular, the company’s assertion that the iconic breakfast cereal has been “clinically proven to help lower cholesterol” effectively renders the product a drug, according to federal law.

Stephen Sundlof, the director of the FDA’s food-safety center, added that General Mills needs to file a new-drug application for Cheerios if it intends to leave the box labeling as it is.

Tom Forsythe, a gobsmacked GM spokesperson responded that Cheerios’ claim it can “lower your cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks” has been posted for 2 years, and that the labeling references a study in which Cheerios was factored into a low saturated fat, low cholesterol diet.

“The clinical study supporting Cheerios’ cholesterol-lowering benefit is very strong,” Forsythe told the Wall Street Journal.

bustedAn unimpressed Sundlof shot back that “we try to make a bright line between what can be said about a drug and what can be said about a food.”

A less specific claim that consuming whole-grain foods can reduce the risk of heart disease risk would be permissible in certain circumstances, he added.

In a letter to General Mills, the FDA said the food-maker must “promptly” correct the violations or else it would be forced to take action, which might include seizing products.

what'sitcalledagain?Apparently, the FDA’s intervention was prompted by a tip from the National Consumers League.

The FDA’s love letter follows by one month a case in which the Federal Trade Commission settled a dispute with Kellogg Co. regarding claims that Frosted Mini-Wheats improved children’s attentiveness by 20%.


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