by Marion Nestle
Nov 23 2010

Kellogg settles class-action health-claims suit

Kellogg has had a bad year on the truth-in-advertising front.

First, It took the brunt of the furor over the late and unlamented Smart Choices fiasco, when the program’s first logo turned up on Froot Loops of all things and was attacked by the Connecticut attorney general.

Next, the IMMUNITY banner on Cocoa Krispies drew fire from the San Francisco city attorney’s office.

Both boxes are now collectors’ items.

Now, FoodNavigator-USA reports that Kellogg has taken another expensive beating, this time on its health claim for Mini-Wheats.

In 2009, Frosted Mini-Wheat boxes sported this health claim:  “Clinically shown to improve children’s attentiveness by nearly 20%.”

Of course this cereal can do that, especially when kids eating it are compared to kids who don’t eat any breakfast at all—which is what this study did.

But that’s not what the adorable television advertisements imply, as shown in exhibits A and B in the summary of the class-action decision.

Last April, Kellogg settled a dispute with the FTC over this claim.  The FTC did not argue that the claim was inherently absurd because of the lack of an appropriate control group for the study.  Instead, it took the study at face value and charged Kellogg with exaggerating the results because hardly any children—only 11%—improved attentiveness by 20% or more.

Kellogg has just settled a class-action suit over this claim that will cost the company $2.75 million in order to pay customers between $5 and $15 each in compensation.  The company also will give $5.5 million to charities.

Because of city and state attorneys and the FTC, the most egregious health claims are slowly disappearing from cereal boxes.     But lawsuits do not constitute policy.  What goes on the front of food packages is FDA territory.

FDA: Get to work!

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  • Subnert

    Chump change…a drop in the bucket!

    Kellogg CEO, A D David Mackay’s salary report show’s he made $11.4 million last year.

    Win some, lose some, right Mr Mackay..? Just throw some change at those pesky peasant consumers and watch them fight over it and clamor in the streets.

  • Pete

    Reminds me of the delivery trucks that double park in Manhattan. Sure they get tickets, but the profits dwarf the penalties. That said, this is great PR material. Too bad there’s no money in acting in the public interest – so much for a PR effort. *sigh*

  • Quebec cheesie

    here in canada the gov’t is beginning to permit health claims on food products after a long time of never permitting it. Nice to see that as the US starts to reclaim it’s country from food corps, Canada is going the opposite route.

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  • Cathy Richards

    These law suits are helpful, but I wish the FDA would grow a pair…

  • Wow! And this as well as winning both the Australian Parents’ Jury Shame Awards ( and winding up parents in the UK with their agressive street advertising campaign suggesting Coco Pops as an after-school snack (…

  • Anthro

    Sigh—-I can’t improve on the comments already made. Thanks for the info of the CEO, Subvert.

    The FDA is starting to rouse from it’s Bush era torpor, but with the way the right-wing noise machine jumps on ANYTHING the Obama Administration even attempts, as “nanny state” or “government interference in (so-called) choice”, the awakening is bound to be cause for further attempts to simply “kill the beast”–as in government in general.

    Sorry to hear about Canada easing regulation–that’s the second time this week I’ve read a blog comment about Canada leaning to US-inspired policies. Scary, as we are currently seeking an employment situation that would allow us to emigrate from the US.