Kellogg has agreed to pay $5 million to settle a claim that it made false and misleading claims about the immunity provided to children by its Rice Krispies cereal.
The agreement puts to rest a six-month saga that began when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took issue with a claim, stamped on Rice Krispies boxes, that the cereal “helps support your child’s immunity” with “25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients -- Vitamins A, B, C, and E.” The packaging also bragged that the cereal “has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy.”
“We expect more from a great American company than making dubious claims -- not once, but twice -- that its cereals improve children's health,” FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said at the time. “Next time, Kellogg needs to stop and think twice about the claims it's making before rolling out a new ad campaign, so parents can make the best choices for their children.”
Among other things, the company claimed that vitamins A, B, C, and E, all found in Rice Krispies, are proven to help fortify the immune system.
Settlement follows earlier agreement
After the FTC’s warning, Kellogg agreed to change its advertising for Rice Krispies. Specifically, the company agreed to expand a previous settlement reached after the FTC scolded Kellogg for claiming that Frosted Mini Wheats cereal is “clinically shown to improve kids' attentiveness by nearly 20 percent.”
Under the order, Kellogg was prohibited from making claims about the benefits to cognitive health, process, or function provided by any cereal or other morning or snack food, unless the claims were true and could be substantiated.
Under the latest agreement, Kellogg has agreed to pay between $5 and $15 to affected consumers, with a maximum total of $2.5 million. The company will also donate $2.5 million worth of Kellogg products to a charity. The settlement follows a similar one concerning the Mini Wheats snafu. In that agreement, reached in November, Kellogg agreed to pay up to $2.75 million to affected consumers, with an additional $5.5 million to charity.
Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at NYU, told USA Today that while “these nutrients are involved in immunity ... I can't think of a nutrient that isn't involved in the immune system.”
Cheerios targeted as well
Kellogg isn’t the only cereal manufacturer facing scrutiny over dubious health-related claims. A 2009 class action took issue with competitor General Mills’s claim that Cheerios can help lower cholesterol. That suit followed a statement from the FDA finding that General Mills’s statement constituted a “serious violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.”