Cheerios: Cereal or Cholesterol Drug?
Image by Marion Nestle
It looks like the FDA is finally getting around to looking at the absurd health claims on boxes of breakfast cereals. And about time too, I'd say. For starters, the FDA picked on General Mills' Cheerios. Cheerios boxes display banners claiming that if you eat this cereal, you will reduce your cholesterol by 4% is 6 weeks. This, General Mills says, is "clinically proven." Yes, but the trial on which General Mills bases this claim substitutes one serving of Cheerios for each of two meals a day. Hey--that ought to work!
In its warning letter, the FDA says that if Cheerios lowers cholesterol, it is claiming to work like a statin drug. If Cheerios acts like a drug, it has to be treated like a drug. Cheerios, says the FDA, "is not generally recognized as safe and effective for use in preventing or treating hypercholesterolemia or coronary heart disease. Therefore...it may not be legally marketed with the above claims in the United States without an approved new drug application."
So what's going on here? I collect cereal boxes and I'm guessing that I bought the one shown here at least two years ago. The boxes have changed since then but similar claims appear on the Cheerios website. Maybe in this new administration the FDA can get a grip on silly and misleading health claims. Let's hope.