Cheerios under fire for health claims


The Food and Drug Administration may not have a problem with General Mills’ use of whole grain oats in its popular breakfast cereal Cheerios, but it does have a problem with the claim that it can reduce a consumer’s cholesterol 4% within six weeks. The FDA made its views known in a letter; the next step is to sit down with General Mills and see where this issue goes next.

A spokesman for General Mills said that there is ample clinical research to back up its Cheerios claim, and it looked forward to discussing the matter with the FDA.

The specific claims about reducing risk of heart disease and lowering cholesterol by a specific amount are apparently the sort of claims the FDA generally reserves for drug manufacturers to advertise, and then only with FDA permission.

The FDA asked for a response as to how General Mills planned to fix the problem within 15 days.

According to reports, Cheerios is worth about $1.4B in sales annually, making it the #1 cereal in America.

RBR/TVBR observation: Apparently General Mills would be fine if they just called the cereal something like “heart-healthy.” The specificity of the 4% claim is the hang-up. It just goes to show that advertising speech is not as free as regular speech.