Posts Tagged ‘marketing’

Cheerios’ Cholesterol Claims Under Fire by FDA

May 19, 2009

Think Cheerios lowers your cholesterol? You’ve had good reason to think so. You’ve seen it on the Cheerios boxes, the commercials, the website (if you’ve looked), and apparently, you could have heard it blasted to you over your “supermarket public address systems.

Well, according to CSPI (Center for Science in the Public Interest), the FDA has demanded “that General Mills halt its grossly exaggerated and misleading health claims for Cheerios cereal.

What are the claims?

  • Cheerios can reduce “bad” cholesterol levels by 4 percent in just 6 weeks
  • Cheerios can ward off heart disease and cancers of the colon and stomach

These are pretty serious claims and General Mills doesn’t provide any evidence to back them up (the actor on the commercial definitely doesn’t count).

According to CSPI, the FDA does support a general claim that “eating diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and high in fiber-containing fruit, vegetable, and grain products may reduce the risk of heart disease. But the claims for Cheerios portrayed the mentioned diseases not included in the FDA-authorized claim and failed to mention the importance of eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.” So General Mills ran with this just because Cheerios has some processed wheat in it.

This is a very strong move by the FDA, and if General Mills does not comply, Cheerios will be taken off the shelf and possibly taken to court. What products could be next? The CSPI legal director Bruce Silverglade explains, “the FDA is signaling the entire food industry that the Bush era policy of lax enforcement has come to an end. The FDA should also stop misleading claims for so-called ‘whole grain’ products that are mostly made with white flour and foods claimed to be made with fruit when they only contain trivial amounts of juice.” That is probably half of most grocery stores!

If you were looking to lower your cholesterol with Cheerios, don’t fret. There are several alternative treatments that have been proven to do the trick, including garlic, artichoke, and good ole vitamin B3. Check About.com: Alternative Medicine for more.

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Gerber Sued for Misleading Marketing

January 4, 2009

This could be a big win for consumer rights and safety. A private citizen brought a lawsuit against The Gerber Products Company which was initially dismissed, but has now been reinstated by the US Court of Appeals. A product of Gerber, formerly called “Fruit Juice Snacks” depicts real fruit on the packaging when its key ingredients are corn syrup and refined sugar. Gerber has now changed the name to “Juice Treats”, which hasn’t really changed much since juice is still not a major ingredient.

The Court of Appeals sided with the private citizen and decided consumers should not be “expected to look beyond misleading representations on the front of the box to discover the truth from the ingredient list in small print on the side of the box.”

The lawsuit will continue with the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) as counsel. Unfortunately in the meanwhile, the product will remain with baby and toddler food at the supermarket, instead of in the candy isle.

Gerber is definitely not the only offender of deceptive food product marketing, and hopefully a ruling against the company will help shape future marketing of unhealthy foods. If all is handled correctly, the candy isle will soon become half of the grocery store.

Report Cards: McDonald’s New Marketing Platform

December 30, 2007

McDonald’s paid the $1,700 tab for Seminole County, Florida’s report card jackets “in exchange for a coupon, featuring Ronald McDonald, on the card’s cover.” With good grades and attendance, the coupon can be redeemed for a free Happy Meal.

This appears to violate the Children’s Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative, which McDonald’s joined last year. Created by the Better Business Bureau, the initiative “provide(s) companies that advertise foods and beverages to children with a transparent and accountable advertising self-regulation mechanism.” Members are not allowed to advertise at schools and cannot place materials in editorial or entertainment content.

Did McDonald’s find a loophole? The report cards are sent straight to the home and may not be easily classifiable as editorial or entertainment. The first compliance review will be in three years. We might have to wait until then for the verdict.

The coupons put parents in a tough spot; a mother in the Seminole school district resented “‘being the bad guy’ that had to deny her daughter the meal.” The mother made the right decision; pairing rewards from doing well at school with unhealthy food is a dangerous combination. The child may only want to do well at school if this same reward is granted, a reward that probably jeopardizes her wellbeing in the long run. It is a safe assumption to believe that the unhealthier a child is, the worse he or she will do in school.

The type of food eaten makes a difference in school performance. A study shows that eating a breakfast with whole grains, like oatmeal, beats eating cold cereal or no breakfast at all. This is probably due to its high protein and fiber, and its gradual raise of glucose levels.

McDonald’s still bleaches all of its grains used, eliminating any nutrition present in its breads. Bleaching most bread creates a poison called alloxon, which has produced diabetes in lab animals, a pretty good sign it is not safe for humans.

McDonald’s has added “healthy” choices to its menu, but these choices are only deceptively healthy, and contain colors and preservatives that have been determined to be detrimental to a human’s health.

McDonald’s defended it’s happy meals, citing that a child could choose a low calorie Happy Meal of Chicken McNuggets, apple dippers, and low fat milk. The combination may be low calorie, but it contains MSG, food coloring, and sodium benzoate. Check McDonald’s ingredients. Most children would probably want the even unhealthier choices, anyway.

McDonald’s is not the only party to blame in this recent event. According to the OrlandoSentinel.com, school board officials call the report card promotions a “business partnership” rather than advertisements.

For schools to find these kinds of “partnerships” beneficial, there must be a lack of funds. If schools were properly paid for and funded, they would not be turning to corporations to print report card jackets.

For more information on the effect of marketing & advertising to children:
Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood
Common Sense Media: Effects of Fast Food Branding on Young Children’s Preferences
ChildrenNow.org: Media & Obesity