Oatmeal Envy

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

They’ve taken all the fun out of cereal boxes. That’s not all. They’ve imposed big fines on the one who tried to make them fun and threatened another. Of course the cereal companies are partly to blame.

Those of advanced years remember with what pleasure the new cereal box’s advent at the breakfast table was greeted by the young. In families with more than one child that one prize led to breakfast time controversy, as the siblings tried to determine who the recipient of the coveted object should be. Among the treasured prizes were such things as decoder rings that enabled the wearer to decode secret messages should the decoder happen upon any. Other prizes included plastic airplanes that purported to be models of actual airplanes but bore only the faintest resemblance to any actual airplane.

In the 1950’s there were even more exciting trinkets including the Atomic Ring and the Meteorite Ring, the characteristics of which are charmingly described by Edward Meyer in the College Hill Review. Recent events suggest that cereal companies may want to return to the days of freebies in boxes instead of health claims on boxes. Consider the plight of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats and their recent encounter with the Federal Trade Commission.

Those who manufacture “Bite Size” Frosted Mini Wheats distinguishing them from other cereals that are presumably not “Bite Size” (although exactly how to describe the size of a Post Toastie or a Rice Krispie I’ll leave professional advertisers to decide) have long since abandoned the practice of including the eagerly awaited toy in the box designed to appeal to the young consumer. This is the 21st Century and cereal companies believe that in order to attract buyers it’s the nutritional rather than the amusement value that counts.

Kellogg’s did research and, according to the Federal Trade Commission, claimed in its advertising that the attention span of children who ate Frosted Mini Wheats improved nearly 20 percent over children who skipped breakfast. (Some may wonder if there is a scientific disconnect in that conclusion but I’ll leave that to those smarter than I to figure out.) The FTC found that Kellogg’s study showed an improvement in only 11 per cent of the students studied and the attention span of only one-half of those students increased 20 per cent. As a result of this, Kellogg’s will be subject to a fine of up to $18,000. It would probably have been better off sticking to decoder rings and tiny plastic airplanes. Since misery loves company, Kellogg’s is probably delighted with the plight of its rival, General Mills.

General Mills has been taken to task not by the Federal Trade Commission but by the Food and Drug Administration. (Why two different agencies have jurisdiction over seemingly identical infractions is unclear. It may be because Cheerios’ infraction affects those with heart conditions rather than attention deficit disorder. That suggests that many cereals are only half a generation removed from snake oil.)

General Mills has apparently been suffering from Oatmeal Envy. According to the FDA it has been misleading those seeking to reduce their cholesterol. It has long been known that oatmeal as well as certain other foods can reduce cholesterol. In a study released by the Mayo Clinic describing the foods that lower cholesterol, however, Cheerios was not included. Undeterred by its non-inclusion, for the last two years General Mills proclaimed that those who faithfully eat the cheerful little “O”s can reduce their cholesterol by 4 per cent within six weeks. In so doing, it has awakened an FDA that spent a happy 8 years under George Bush’s administration, sleeping.

In a letter to General Mills, the re-awakened FDA advised the company that: “Based on claims made on your product’s label, we have determined that your Cheerios® Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease.” The letter goes on to advise the company that Cheerios “may not be legally marketed with the above claims in the United States without an approved new drug application.” General Mills says its science is strong and it looks forward “to discussing this with FDA.” If it loses it can always put decoder rings back in the packages.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer living in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: brauchli1@comcast.net

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christopher Brauchli is an attorney in Boulder, Colorado.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?