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FTC Kellogg censor a warning to industry

By staff reporter , 21-Apr-2009
Last updated on 22-Apr-2009 at 11:51 GMT2009-04-22T11:51:34Z

The Kellogg company has removed adverts stating its cereals were clinically proven to boost children’s concentration by almost one fifth, after the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took issue with the marketing.

FTC warned major companies that they must set an example in advertising, and if they didn’t, the FTC was going to enforce advertising guidelines more stringently.

“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.”

Mini-Wheats advertising shredded

FTC said Kellogg advertising for its Frosted Mini-Wheats misrepresented a study that, in fact, found an improvement in attentiveness of only 11 percent compared to a group of children who ate no breakfast at all, and not the 20 percent Kellogg claimed.

After being told its cognitive benefit ads were in breach of federal law, Kellogg agreed to pull the ads.

"We stand behind the validity of our clinical study, yet have adjusted our communication to incorporate FTC's guidance," Kellogg said.

Its marketing included messages on its websites stating that the cereal could keep children "full and focused".

False advertising cop

“The astonishing claims made by Kellogg that its Frosted Mini-Wheats improved children’s attentiveness by 20 percent were laughable on their face and never should have surfaced in an advertising campaign by a major food manufacturer,” said Center for Science in the Pubic Interest (CSPI) legal affairs director, Bruce Silverglade.

He said the FTC decision demonstrated the “false advertising cop is back on the beat”.

“We hope this is the just the beginning of a coordinated new effort to rein in dishonest advertising and marketing by food companies,” he added. “The FTC could require much stronger remedies, such as corrective advertising. In addition, Congress should expand the FTC’s authority to level civil penalties.”

The Kellogg campaign included television, print, and internet advertising, as well as product packaging.

FTC said it would monitor Kellogg to make sure it complied with the ruling.

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