There seems to be a storm brewing with America’s favorite cereal brand and the public. If you haven’t noticed, the Cheerios brand has been advertising a new cereal that it contains a “high protein” content. Diet trends lately have pushed consumers to watch the amount of protein in their diets, especially those who follow vegan and vegetarian diets. The boxes state eating a bowl with milk can contain up to 11 grams of protein (roughly 10% of your daily recommendation). However, a new lawsuit is claims this is a false advertisement.
One serving of original Cheerios is to contain 3 grams of protein, while a serving of Cheerios Protein has 7 grams of protein. The contradiction is in the serving size; they are calculated differently on the two boxes. One serving of Original Cheerios is roughly 28 grams in weight, while Cheerios Protein is 55 grams as seen on the nutritional labels. Because of this, the labels are misleading when it comes to the amount of protein in the product.
Although the ingredients and nutritional value are placed on all of the cereal boxes, the plaintiff claims the marketing of Cheerios Protein is misleading to the public consumer who may not know to compare it to the other Cheerio brands. Misleading marketing has increasingly become an issue with consumers and food. This is especially true when companies try to keep up with “eating trends”, such as organic, non-GMO, and natural ingredient foods that fill the grocery stores.The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is the client filing for the lawsuit, stating it is wrong for the Cheerios company, General Mills, to market the cereal as a “good source of protein”. In addition to the consumer paying more for a product deemed healthier than the original cereal, Cheerios Protein actually has 17 grams of sugar per serving compared to 1 gram of sugar in Original Cheerios.
On the other hand, General Mills spokesman, Mike Siemienas, says CSPI created this lawsuit as a way to gain publicity. He says Cheerios Protein contains 18% more protein by weight than Original Cheerios. According to the FDA, a product is allowed to claim to be a “good source” of a nutrient only if it contains 10-19% of the recommended daily value. In this sense, Cheerios Protein is accurately labeled.
This is just one of many other lawsuits that have arisen in recent years that pertains to false advertising. A Finnish company had to remove the word “meat” from their “meatballs” because they lacked the right amount of animal product to be considered meat. General Mills recently battled a lawsuit with its “gluten free” cereal that actually put gluten intolerant consumers at risk consuming their cereal. False advertising is becoming an issue as more companies try to remain “hip” and “relevant” to a growing consumer population that shops for less modified, natural food products. As the years go on, hopefully we will see less false advertising lawsuits filed.