Kellogg Company, the world’s leading producer of cereal, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that advertising claims touting a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats as “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%” were false and violated federal law. The proposed settlement bars deceptive or misleading cognitive health claims for Kellogg’s breakfast foods and snack foods and bars the company from misrepresenting any tests or studies.
According to the FTC’s complaint, Kellogg claimed in a national advertising campaign – including television, print, and Internet advertising, as well as product packaging – that a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal is clinically shown to improve children’s attentiveness by nearly 20 percent. The complaint alleges that, in fact, according to the clinical study referred to in Kellogg’s advertising, only about half the children who ate Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast showed any improvement in attentiveness, and only about one in nine improved by 20 percent or more.
The complaint also challenges the claim, made in a different television ad, that a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats was clinically shown to improve children’s attentiveness by nearly 20 percent when compared to children who ate no breakfast. In fact, the study showed that the children who ate the cereal for breakfast averaged just under 11 percent better in attentiveness, by comparison, and that relatively few were nearly 20 percent more attentive. Based on the clinical study results, the complaint alleges that both of the challenged claims are false and violate the FTC Act.
“We tell consumers that they should deal with trusted national brands,” said Chairman Jon Leibowitz. “So it’s especially important that America’s leading companies are more ‘attentive’ to the truthfulness of their ads and don’t exaggerate the results of tests or research. In the future, the Commission will certainly be more attentive to national advertisers.”
The proposed settlement would bar Kellogg from making comparable claims about Frosted Mini-Wheats unless the claims are true and not misleading. It requires that claims about the benefits to cognitive health, process, or function provided by Frosted Mini-Wheats or any morning food or snack food be substantiated and true. The settlement would prohibit Kellogg from misrepresenting the results of tests, studies, or research regarding any morning or snack food product. Finally, the settlement contains standard record-keeping provisions to allow the agency to monitor compliance.
The Commission vote to approve the administrative complaint and proposed consent agreement was 4-0. The FTC will publish an announcement regarding the agreement in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through May 19, 2009, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. To file a public comment, please click on the following hyperlink: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/04/0823145publiccomment.pdf and follow the instructions at that site.
Copies of the complaint, the proposed consent agreement, and an analysis of the agreement to aid in public comment are available from both the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $16,000.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Kial S. Young
Bureau of Consumer Protection
(FTC File No. 0823145)