June 4th, 2010
01:04 PM ET

Kellogg settles Rice Krispies false ad case

By Saundra Young
CNN Senior Medical Producer

For the second time in a year, cereal giant Kellogg is settling false advertising charges from the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC announced that the leading cereal maker's claims that Rice Krispies boosts a child's immunity with "25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients – Vitamins A, B, C and E" were "dubious" and ordered the company to discontinue all advertising stating such. Kellogg has agreed to the order.

Last April, the Kellogg Company settled FTC charges over false advertising claims for another popular breakfast cereal Frosted Mini-Wheats. The national ad campaign claimed the cereal was clinically shown to improve kids' attentiveness by nearly 20 percent. The FTC found the clinical studies actually showed that only half the children who ate the cereal had improved attentiveness and that very few–only 1 in 9 - were 20 percent more attentive. That settlement barred Kellogg from making these claims, and from misrepresenting test results in any breakfast or snack food products.

"We expect more from a great American company than making dubious claims – not once, but twice – that its cereals improve children's health," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "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."

Now the FTC's is modifying its original order and barring Kellogg from making any misleading or unsubstantiated health-related claims about any of the food products the company  sells –unless there is scientific evidence to back those claims.

"What is particularly disconcerting to us," said FTC Commissioner Julie Brill, "Is that at the same time Kellogg was making promises to the commission regarding Frosted Mini-Wheats, the company was preparing to make problematic claims about Rice Krispies"

Kellogg released a statement: "Kellogg Company has a long history of responsible advertising. We stand behind the validity of our product claims and research, so we agreed to an order that covers those claims. We believe that the revisions to the existing consent agreement satisfied any remaining concerns."

The company has signed the FTC order, which is just like a court order and is legally binding. If the order is violated in any way, the company could be fined up to $16,000 per violation. The definition of violation can vary, for example, from every time a commercial airs touting these claims, to every box of cereal that remains of the shelf containing the potentially misleading wording. The FTC says violations can often lead to hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties. Companies are required to provide information on how they are complying with the Agency's Bureau of Consumer Protection's Enforcement Division, which is constantly checking to see whether companies are complying with FTC orders.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

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soundoff (695 Responses)
  1. Pamela Simpson

    My comment is about Toxic Childhood. I agree with all who said that the toxic chemicals in our products are harmful. I wish you would of let the public know about fragrance. Most all fragrances are toxic. They hide 1,000 of toxic chemicals under that word. I am very sensitive or allergic to toxic chemicals. There are people getting sick out there from fragrance. I have to stay away from people because breathing the fumes really irritates my respiratory system, causes fatigue and upset stomach. This is only for brief encounters of fumes. The product that I think is the worst is the dryer sheets or liquid laundry softeners with fragrance that can send toxic fumes 100+ yards. I cannot even go in my own backyard when a dryer is running with scented softeners. Plus the babies wearing these clothes where a scented softener was used has to be so harmful to their respiratory system and skin. I know many adults that get rashes with this toxic stuff. Also it will seep into the babies skin and with the petroleum products in the fragrance can cause cancer.

    June 4, 2010 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Julie

      My experience with laundry detergents and fabric softeners is identical. It is overwhelming to walk past houses in my neighborhood when they are running dryers. I gasp in the fumes and feel very nauseous. If I enter a room and someone has used fabric softener I have to exit immediately. Thanks for posting

      June 5, 2010 at 13:29 | Report abuse |
  2. Kathryn Martyn Smith

    Truth is Kellogg knows they are making false statements but the benefits outweigh the slap-on-the wrist from FTC coming months or years later. Fake "good PR" sticks. Changed packaging won't change the minds of those who believed the misleading claims. Americans deserve a public apology; I suggest community service adverts.

    June 4, 2010 at 15:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Brett

    OK, so I get this, and I'm glad it was pulled, but why is it then that stores like GNC can exist at all. pretty much everything in there is false claims and pseudoscience. It is quite a double standard.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. GeigerZ

    I love Frosted Mini-Wheats!! Have had them for breakfast for years now. What were we just talking about? Sorry, was distracted. Agghh! Doesn't work on adults. =/

    June 4, 2010 at 16:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. davec

    Some heads must roll at Kelloggs.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Linda in Los Angeles

    They should have also caught the "Wonder Bread builds strong bodies in 12 ways" nonsense of the 50's. My dad called it air bread. Anyone who can read and reason should have figured out long ago that ALL mfged products, cereals included, are bad for kids and adults. Most adults purchase such fair irregardless of marketing ploys. The fact that some people would actually believe such drivel is more sad than the false statements themselves.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Mitch

    Hmm. . . "responsible advertising". . . is that an oxymoron or an urban legend. I cannot seem to decide.

    Never trust anyone who is trying to sell you something.

    June 4, 2010 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. JeramieH

    "Now the FTC's is modifying its original order and barring Kellogg from making any misleading or unsubstantiated health-related claims about any of the food products the company sells"

    I guess it's OK to do until the FTC specifically tells you no.

    June 4, 2010 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. The_Mick

    Brett – you're right, but the claims made by GNC are not about food products, they are about alleged medical effects and, since they claim they occur in natural, not synthesized medical, products they don't fall under the FDA or anyone's jurisdiction! They should. Thousands of people die in the USA every year due to quack medicine – in many cases delaying what could be effective treatment for cancer, organ failure, etc. until it's too late.

    June 4, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. babs

    Never trust anyone who is trying to sell you something.
    AGREED. and especially don't trust the big, expensive ads!

    June 5, 2010 at 00:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Tony

    I love frosted flakes and will support Kellogg always. My name is Tony just like the tiger and eat my cereal every morning to get my daily energy to start out the morning.

    June 5, 2010 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Heather

    The claim on the box was pretty much that Rice Krispies had vitamins that helped support "your child's immunity" – that's true, those vitamins do help strengthen the immune system. So Kellogg's could claim that. The question is: how much support does 25% DV of those vitamins give the immune system? Probably not much – so while it was a scientifically valid claim, FTC thought it was "dubious"ly overpromising.

    June 6, 2010 at 21:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Eric

    "OK, so I get this, and I'm glad it was pulled, but why is it then that stores like GNC can exist at all. pretty much everything in there is false claims and pseudoscience. It is quite a double standard."

    Dietary supplements, herbs, amino acids, minerals, and vitamins are not regulated by the Federal government. These happen to be (mostly) the products that GNC sells. There has not been enough public support for regulating these items. Only foods (such as Rice Krispies), drugs (like Lipitor), and cosmetics are regulated, as required by the Federal Food, Drugs and Cosmetics Act of 1938, and its subsequent amendments. The advertising of these items are regulated by the Federal Trade Commission. For more information on the exclusions look up the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.

    June 7, 2010 at 17:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Mavent

    I'm sure glad that during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, the FTC has the time to hassle Kellogg over something that anyone with six functioning brain-cells could have easily figured out for themselves. "Oh, gee, you mean stuffing my kids full of sugar really DOESN'T make them more attentive? Thanks FTC!"

    At this point, the FTC seems more like an arm of the Mafia: extortionists who threaten companies with TROs until they pay huge fines.

    June 8, 2010 at 01:19 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.