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article imageOp-Ed: FDA Busts Cheerios For Cholesterol-lowering Claims

By Sandy Sand     May 13, 2009 in Business
The FDA laid down the law to the maker of Cheerios in a letter that said claims on its label are misleading that the cereal can lower cholesterol by four percent in six weeks.
I knew it! I was suspicious of those cholesterol-lowing claims from the second I saw the first commercial making that claim.
It just didn't sound right; I was sure something was wrong with the claim.
How could eating a cereal lower one’s cholesterol?
There’s only one way Cheerios or any non-cholesterol-containing food can lower cholesterol…by using it as a substitute for cholesterol-containing foods, such as bacon and eggs.
If cereal or any other food had cholesterol-lowering properties, one would probably have to eat a ton of it for it to do any good.
It’s like the potassium in bananas. Yeah. Duh. It’s there. But you’d have to have to eat an entire stalk of bananas as they come off the boat from South America, tarantulas and all, to get enough potassium to make up the loss from taking diuretics or whatever is making you lose potassium.
In its letter to General Mills, maker of Cheerios, dated May 5, the FDA said the cereal has to be approved as a drug before they can make specific claims, such as it can "lower your cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks."
This statement by General Mills really deserves questioning. What took the FDA 12 years to condemn Cheerios for health claims made on its boxes?:
General Mills said the health claims on Cheerios have been approved for 12 years and the FDA's complaints deal with how the language appears on the box, not the cereal itself.
Of course the claims on the box deal with “the cereal itself.” What else would it be talking about? The healthful virtues of driving a Ford? Going water skiing? Drinking water? Taking a long walk? Eating any other food? Taking an aspirin?
Tom Forsythe, spokesman for Cheerios said in a statement:
"The science is not in question. The clinical study supporting Cheerios' cholesterol-lowering benefit is very strong."
O, c’mon, Tom. One, you didn’t show the studies, and besides, do you really expect anyone to believe a “clinical study” that odds-on was bought and paid for by Cheerios?
The FDA does permit marketers of whole grain foods, such as Cheerios to highlight their product's ability to reduce the risk of heart disease, and although the box does display that in its lower left-hand corner, it’s the language about cholesterol that is printed in much larger letters and appears in a different place. This is something the FDA doesn’t permit.
The FDA requested General Mills correct any problems with the labeling within 15 business days of receiving its letter, but…big BUT…the letter does not legally bind any company that receives such a letter to comply.
The FDA said it regularly issues warning letters when companies overstate claims about their products.
If there is no compliance they can be taken to court, but there are no guarantees that, that will happen.
What would be hysterically funny would be if Cheerios could prove their “studies” were accurate, and eating Cheerios really does lower cholesterol, the FDA would have to declare it a “drug” and we’d need prescriptions to buy it at the super market.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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