For the last few years, Cheerios has been producing commercials like this one. These encouraging ads remind us that Cheerios are not only delicious but can make your next visit to the doctor go much smoother. But how true are these claims?
Michael Pollan explains in his book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto, most cereal box health claims are based on little evidence since because “these [products of food science] are often founded on incomplete and often erroneous science” (154). According to Pollan, big food companies like General Mills (makers of Cheerios) are able to get big, bright food claims on their boxes for two reasons. First “because all plants contain antioxidants, all these studies are guaranteed to find something on which to base a health oriented marketing campaign” (154) and that the FDA is too lenient with food companies.
But the FDA has struck back against the food products that have started to creep over the line between food and drug. Cheerios’s claim that it can “lower your cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks!” cannot be made for a food product but instead a drug, according to the article, Cheerios’ Health Claims Breaks Rules, FDA says, in Wall Street Journal. The FDA notes, there is specific language that must be used when claiming that a food helps to reduce a certain disease, like heart-disease, and the Cheerios ad and website does not provide any of it. So maybe Michael Pollan is getting his wish for a stronger FDA, as the article predicts that the start of a new a trend of a more “aggressive stance towards companies it regulates” by the FDA.