Last July, I presented Kellogg's modern spin on 1950s-style "breakfast science." In this case, the venerable cereal company claimed that delicious, sugar-coated, artificially flavored squares of wheat could improve children's performance in school:
According to the box, these Frosted Mini-Wheats (Strawberry Delight) have been:
Clinically Shown to improve kids' Attentitiveness by nearly... 20%
Note that the claim is written with cartoon chalk, on a cartoon blackboard. So it's not implying that a bowl of the stuff will just keep your kid awake through Blue's Clues.
What does this claim actually mean? When we check the fine print on the bottom of the box, we see: Based
upon independent clinical research, kids who ate Kellogg's® Frosted
Mini-Wheats® cereal for breakfast had up to 18% better attentiveness
three hours after breakfast than kids who ate no breakfast.
Based upon independent clinical research, kids who ate Kellogg's® Frosted Mini-Wheats® cereal for breakfast had up to 18% better attentiveness three hours after breakfast than kids who ate no breakfast.
In other words, Frosted Mini-Wheats are (up to) 18% better than starving.
Yeah, so about that. This morning:
Kellogg Co. has agreed to settle federal charges that it falsely advertised the benefits for children of eating Frosted Mini-Wheats, the Federal Trade Commission announced Monday.
A proposed consent agreement would bar Kellogg from making misleading claims for its breakfast and snack foods and from misrepresenting studies, the FTC said.
Take note: they required a consent agreement not to lie on their packaging.
Kellogg's national TV ads asserted that attentiveness improved nearly 20 percent in children who ate the cereal, compared with those who skipped breakfast, the FTC said. But the study the ads refer to found a benefit from eating Frosted Mini-Wheats in only half the children studied, and only 11 percent of the children's attention improved 20 percent, according to the FTC.
How about the fact that the control group was "kids who ate nothing"?
"We tell consumers that they should deal with trusted national brands," FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said in a statement. "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."
Kellogg issued a statement citing its "long history of responsible advertising."
"We stand behind the validity of our clinical study yet have adjusted our communication to incorporate FTC's guidance," the company said.
So how about we stop all this bickering about who printed which misleading claims on whose cereal boxes, and just move on? As Peggy Noonan would say, sometimes you need to just keep walking.