FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Oatmeal Envy

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
September 19, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
When Bernie Sold Out His Hero, Anti-Authoritarians Paid
Lawrence Davidson
Political Fragmentation on the Homefront
George Ochenski
How’s That “Chinese Hoax” Treating You, Mr. President?
Cesar Chelala
The Afghan Morass
Chris Wright
Three Cheers for the Decline of the Middle Class
Howard Lisnoff
The Beat Goes On Against Protest in Saudi Arabia
Nomi Prins 
The Donald in Wonderland: Down the Financial Rabbit Hole With Trump
Jack Rasmus
On the 10th Anniversary of Lehman Brothers 2008: Can ‘IT’ Happen Again?
Richard Schuberth
Make Them Suffer Too
Geoff Beckman
Kavanaugh in Extremis
Jonathan Engel
Rather Than Mining in Irreplaceable Wilderness, Why Can’t We Mine Landfills?
Binoy Kampmark
Needled Strawberries: Food Terrorism Down Under
Michael McCaffrey
A Curious Case of Mysterious Attacks, Microwave Weapons and Media Manipulation
Elliot Sperber
Eating the Constitution
September 18, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Britain: the Anti-Semitism Debate
Tamara Pearson
Why Mexico’s Next President is No Friend of Migrants
Richard Moser
Both the Commune and Revolution
Nick Pemberton
Serena 15, Tennis Love
Binoy Kampmark
Inconvenient Realities: Climate Change and the South Pacific
Martin Billheimer
La Grand’Route: Waiting for the Bus
John Kendall Hawkins
Seymour Hersh: a Life of Adversarial Democracy at Work
Faisal Khan
Is Israel a Democracy?
John Feffer
The GOP Wants Trumpism…Without Trump
Kim Ives
The Roots of Haiti’s Movement for PetroCaribe Transparency
Dave Lindorff
We Already Have a Fake Billionaire President; Why Would We want a Real One Running in 2020?
Gerry Brown
Is China Springing Debt Traps or Throwing a Lifeline to Countries in Distress?
Pete Tucker
The Washington Post Really Wants to Stop Ben Jealous
Dean Baker
Getting It Wrong Again: Consumer Spending and the Great Recession
September 17, 2018
Melvin Goodman
What is to be Done?
Rob Urie
American Fascism
Patrick Cockburn
The Adults in the White House Trying to Save the US From Trump Are Just as Dangerous as He Is
Jeffrey St. Clair - Alexander Cockburn
The Long Fall of Bob Woodward: From Nixon’s Nemesis to Cheney’s Savior
Mairead Maguire
Demonization of Russia in a New Cold War Era
Dean Baker
The Bank Bailout of 2008 was Unnecessary
Wim Laven
Hurricane Trump, Season 2
Yves Engler
Smearing Dimitri Lascaris
Ron Jacobs
From ROTC to Revolution and Beyond
Clark T. Scott
The Cannibals of Horsepower
Binoy Kampmark
A Traditional Right: Jimmie Åkesson and the Sweden Democrats
Laura Flanders
History Markers
Weekend Edition
September 14, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Carl Boggs
Obama’s Imperial Presidency
Joshua Frank
From CO2 to Methane, Trump’s Hurricane of Destruction
Jeffrey St. Clair
Maria’s Missing Dead
Andrew Levine
A Bulwark Against the Idiocy of Conservatives Like Brett Kavanaugh
T.J. Coles
Neil deGrasse Tyson: A Celebrity Salesman for the Military-Industrial-Complex
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail