National Consumers League

Food

NCL Food Issues

Consumer group sues General Mills for deceptive claims on Cheerios

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Release Date: September 10, 2009
Contact: 202-835-3323, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Washington, DC, September 10, 2009—The nation’s pioneering consumer organization, the National Consumers League (NCL), is taking cereal giant General Mills to court for claiming that eating its cereal, Cheerios®, would reduce total and “bad” cholesterol. The NCL filed its case in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on August 20, 2009.

NCL is suing under the DC “private Attorney General” statute, alleging that General Mills falsely represented that Cheerios possessed drug-like anti-cholesterol properties without being approved as a drug by the United States Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”).  On the packaging, the cereal company claimed “Cheerios is ... clinically proven to lower cholesterol.  A clinical study showed that eating two 11/2 cup servings daily of Cheerios cereal reduced bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.”

Earlier this year, in response to a letter sent by NCL, the FDA notified General Mills that at least some of Defendant’s health benefit claims violated the Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act.  The FDA issued a cease-and-desist letter stating that the health claims “exceed those permitted for products that have not obtained FDA approval for marketing as a drug.”

“Putting a stop to false and deceptive advertising is a cornerstone of consumer protection,” said the NCL’s Executive Director Sally Greenberg. “In this case, General Mills has really gone overboard with these claims about Cheerios’ drug-like anti-cholesterol properties. They should know better, and we hope the action we’ve taken will deter such exaggerated claims in the future.”

Headquartered in the District of Columbia, the NCL filed its case under the District of Columbia Consumer Protection Procedures Act, DC Code Section 28-3901 et seq. which makes it an “unlawful trade practice …whether or not any consumer is in fact misled, deceived or damaged thereby,” to “represent that goods or services have a source, sponsorship, approval, certification, accessories, characteristics, ingredients, uses, benefits or quantities that they do not have.”

The NCL is represented by Finkelstein Thompson LLP, a firm with extensive experience in the field of consumer protection law.  The National Consumers League has represented the interests of consumers and workers since 1899, and throughout its history has worked to combat false and deceptive advertising, particularly in foods products.

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About the National Consumers League

The National Consumers League, founded in 1899, is America's pioneer consumer organization. Our mission is to protect and promote social and economic justice for consumers and workers in the United States and abroad. For more information, visit www.nclnet.org.

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