The Kellogg Company has pulled immunity claims from its popular antioxidant-fortified Rice Krispies range, rather bizarrely citing swine flu links as the principal reason.
“While science shows that these antioxidants help support the immune system, given the public attention on H1N1, the Company decided to make this change,” the company said in a statement.
“The communication will be on pack for the next few months as packaging flows through store shelves. We will, however, continue to provide the increased amounts of vitamins A, B, C and E (25% Daily Value) that the cereal offers.”
Kellogg's has been adding antioxidants to Rice Krispies for about a year and began making the immunity claims in May.
At the time it said: "These nutrients have been identified by the Institute of Medicine and other studies as playing an important role in the body's immune system. Therefore, we believe the claim ... is supported by reliable and competent scientific evidence."
However, the claims caused instant controversy as parent groups and nutritionists criticized the Kellogg Group for flagging up immunity benefits in products that contain about 40 percent sugar.
While Kellogg's is citing the rise of swine flu as a reason for discontinuing the claims, it was heavily criticized for adding the claims in reaction to the pandemic, a claim it staunchly denied at the time, noting the problem had not become widespread when the claims were added to packaging in May.
Kellogg’s spokesperson Susanne Norwitz told NutraIngredients-USA.com the level of consumer complaint was minor, unlike the media response to the product when the swine flu crisis grew.
“While we have heard very little from consumers, questions were raised in the media regarding the timing of this product and the H1N1 outbreak,” she said, adding that, “Kellogg developed this product in response to consumers expressing a desire for more positive nutrition.”
The move follows a Kellogg’s decision not to promote the ‘Smart Choices’ scheme after the Food and Drug Administration raised concerns about the potential for such labels to mislead consumers.
Food industry critic, Marion Nestle, applauded Kellogg’s decision. "Yes, these nutrients are involved in immunity, but I can't think of a nutrient that isn't involved in the immune system," she told USA Today.