FTC Expands Kellogg Settlement on Health Claims in Cereal Ads

Kellogg has agreed to advertising restrictions to resolve a Federal Trade Commission investigation into health claims made for its iconic Rice Krispies cereal.

It is the second time in as many years that the company has settled FTC investigations into dubious claims for its product. Last year, Kellogg agreed in a settlement to stop making claiming in TV ads and elsewhere that its Mini-Wheats cereal was "clinically shown to improve kids' attentiveness by nearly 20%."

The order has now been expanded after Kellogg, at about the same time it was settling the initial claim, launched a campaign for Rice Krispies packaging claiming it helped support children's immunity.

In the original settlement, the company had agreed not to make any claims about the cognitive health benefits for any food. The expanded order now bars it from making any non-misleading health claims for any of its foods without scientific evidence.

"We expect more from a great American company than making dubious claims -- not once, but twice -- that its cereals improve children's health," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz in announcing the expanded order. "Next time, Kellogg needs to stop and think twice about the claims it's making before rolling out a new ad campaign, so parents can make the best choices for their children."

Leibowitz said he was troubled by the timing of the campaign, which he said would have had to be in the planning stages even as the company was agreeing not to make false or unsubstantiated claims about Mini-Wheats' affect on kids' cognitive abilities.

In a separate statement, Leibowitz suggested the expanded order should be a signal to food marketers in general: "We hope that the Commission action announced today communicates to industry that it has an obligation to be honest with the public, and that the FTC will act swiftly to challenge questionable health claims about children's food products. Our kids and parents deserve no less."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.