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Kellogg Settles With FTC Over False Claims

Apr 21, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP Media outlets are confirming that Kellogg Company agreed yesterday to settle charges with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it used false advertising to tout its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal.  The national television ads falsely boast benefits children receive after eating a breakfast of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats, saying that children who eat the breakfast cereal experience a 20 percent improvement in attentiveness over children who skipped breakfast, reported the San Francisco Gate, citing the FTC.

Apparently, the study Kellogg Company cited in its ad campaign did see a benefit from eating the cereal, but only in half of the children studied and only 11 percent of those children’s attention improved by the so-called 20 percent, said the San Francisco Gate.  Market Watch reported that the proposed settlement bans Kellogg Company from making these types of claims about Frosted Mini-Wheats and also bans Kellogg from misrepresenting “future test or research results about any morning or snack food products.”  Food Product Design said that the FTC claim involved statements by Kellogg Company that Frosted Mini-Wheats are "clinically shown to improve kids' attentiveness by nearly 20 percent."  Not only are the claims false, said Food Product Design, but they violate federal law.

Under the proposed consent agreement, Kellogg Company is no longer allowed to make deceptive or misleading cognitive health claims for its breakfast and snack foods, and is also prohibited from “misrepresenting any tests or studies,” said Food Product Design.

“We tell consumers that they should deal with trusted national brands,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement, quoted the Associated Press (AP). “So it’s especially important that America’s leading companies are more attentive to the truthfulness of their ads and don’t exaggerate the results of tests or research.”

Center for Science in the Public Interest’s (CSPI) legal affairs director, Bruce Silverglade, pointed out that some smaller companies have been guilty of false advertising; however, “it’s truly disappointing to see a major company like Kellogg’s stoop to that level,” quoted the AP.  CSPI is a Washington-based consumer-advocacy group.  CPSI also stated that it wants Kellogg to stop using synthetic food dyes found in some varieties of Mini-Wheats, said the AP, adding that the group said the dyes aggravate some hyperactivity and behavioral problems in children.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time a major company has been caught making false claims about its products.  In January we wrote about how the Coca-Cola Company was being sued over false claims about some of its beverages in the second such scandal over its deceptive marketing practices.  According to a prior Reuters article, CPSI was suing the soft drink giant in a class action lawsuit that accused it of making false claims about its Vitaminwater drinks.  That lawsuit followed an earlier warning by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about its marketing of Diet Coke Plus, said Reuters, in which it claimed that Diet Coke Plus includes vitamins and minerals, which violate U.S. policy against marketing soda and other snack foods as more nutritious, or "fortified."

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