The world's biggest purveyor of breakfast cereal is ready to admit its advertising lied.
Frosted Mini-Wheats are not, as it turns out, "clinically shown to improve kids attentiveness by nearly 20%" as one ad campaign -- broadcast across the nation on television, in print and on the Internet -- claimed.
In a proposed settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Kellogg admits that its claim was "false and violated federal law," according to the FTC.
According to the FTC, the referenced study found that "only about half the children who ate Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast showed any improvement in attentiveness, and only about one in nine improved by 20 percent or more" and that children only fared better compared to those who ate no breakfast.
That sounds suspiciously like eating breakfast is the important thing, not which cereal you choose.
"We tell consumers that they should deal with trusted national brands," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said (rather snarkily, don't you think?) in a prepared statement. "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. In the future, the Commission will certainly be more attentive to national advertisers."
In addition to admitting it erred, Kellogg faces a stiff penalty: It can't lie in advertising anymore. Or, in the words of the FTC:
"The proposed settlement would bar Kellogg from making comparable claims about Frosted Mini-Wheats unless the claims are true and not misleading. It requires that claims about the benefits to cognitive health, process, or function provided by Frosted Mini-Wheats or any morning food or snack food be substantiated and true. The settlement would prohibit Kellogg from misrepresenting the results of tests, studies, or research regarding any morning or snack food product. Finally, the settlement contains standard record-keeping provisions to allow the agency to monitor compliance."
Advocates like the Center for Science in the Public Interest applauded the FTC decision and said it seems to suggest the Obama Administration is going to get tough on false advertising."The astonishing claims made by Kellogg that its Frosted Mini-Wheats improved children's attentiveness by 20 percent were laughable on their face and never should have surfaced in an advertising campaign by a major food manufacturer," said CSPI Legal Affairs Director Bruce Silverglade. "The settlement announced today by the Federal Trade Commission is a strong sign the false advertising cop is back on the beat, and the agency will no longer tolerate misleading health claims. We hope this is the just the beginning of a coordinated new effort to rein in dishonest advertising and marketing by food companies. The FTC could require much stronger remedies, such as corrective advertising. In addition, Congress should expand the FTCs authority to level civil penalties."
CSPI also urged Kellogg to consider research that indicates certain dyes commonly used in cereals -- Blue 1, Blue 2, Red 40 and others -- exacerbates some children's hyperactivity and behavioral problems. After all, it is concerned (now) about both scientific integrity and children's brain health.
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