by Shayna Keith. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is an independent agency of the U.S. government (established by the Federal Trade Commission Act). Its principle mission is to promote consumer protection and eliminate and prevent anticompetitive business practices. The FTC prevents consumers from undergoing fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and provides information to help identify, halt, and prevent them (FTC File No. 0823145, 2009).
Kellogg Company, the world’s leading producer of cereal, agreed to settle FTC charges for falsely advertised their products as enhancing children’s cognitive abilities as well as immunity, however there was no research proving their statements.
Kellogg's advertised that a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%” (FTC File No. 0823145, 2009).
Kellogg's Misleading Advertising for Frosted Mini-Wheats
Analysis of Proposed Consent Order to Aid Public Comment for Kellogg
Public Comments Responded to by the FTC's Office of the Secretary
Statement of Commissioner Julie Brill and Chairman Jon Leibowitz In the Matter of Kellogg Company, FTC Docket No. C-4262. Kellogg Advertises that Rice Krispies Benefits Children's Immunity Leading to Stronger Order
In 2009 the FTC agreed to advertising restrictions resolving misleading advertisements stating that its Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20%” as well as a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats was clinically shown to improve children’s attentiveness by nearly 20 percent when compared to children who didn’t eat breakfast (Leibowitz, Harbour, Kovacic, Rosch, 2010).
However, about the same time that Kellogg agreed to stop advertising false claims in its cereal ads, the company began a new advertising campaign promoting the false health benefits of Rice Krispies (Leibowitz, Harbour, Kovacic, Rosch, 2010). On the product packaging of its Rice Krispies, Kelloogg claimed that Rice Krispies cereal “now helps support your child’s immunity,” with “25 percent Daily Value of Antioxidants and Nutrients – Vitamins A, B, C, and E.” The back of the cereal box stated that “Kellogg’s Rice Krispies has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy” (Leibowitz, Harbour, Kovacic, Rosch, 2010).
Under the original settlement order Cover Frosted Mini-Wheats, Kellogg was barred from making claims about the benefits to cognitive health, process, or function provided by any of its products unless the claims were true and sustained (Leibowitz, Harbour, Kovacic, Rosch, 2010).
The FTC expanded order against Kellogg prohibiting the company from making claims about any health benefit of any food products unless the claims are no misleading, and backed by scientific evidence (Leibowitz, Harbour, Kovacic, Rosch, 2010).
The Commission vote to modify the 2009 settlement order was unanimous.
In 2009, Kellogg had sales of nearly $13 billion and a marketing and advertising budget of over $1 billion (Brill, Leibowitz, 2010).
Federal Trade Commission. FTC Investigation of Ad Claims That Rice Krispies Benefits Children's Immunity Leads to Stronger Order Against Kellogg. Federal Trade Commission News and Events. N.p., 3 June 2010. Web. 5 Apr. 2016. <https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2010/06/ftc-investigation-ad-claims-rice-krispies-benefits-childrens>.
United States of America. Federal Trade Commission. In the Matter of Kellogg Company, FTC Docket No. C-4262 Concurring Statement of Commissioner Julie Brill and Chairman Jon Leibowitz. By Julie Brill and Jon Leibowitz. N.p., 3 June 2010. Web. 6 Apr. 2016. <https://www.ftc.gov/sites/default/files/documents/cases/2010/06/100602kelloggstatement.pdf>.
The FTC’s Complaint alleged that Kellogg had violated Sections 5(a) and 12 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. §§ 45(a) and 52, by falsely claiming that a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal is clinically shown to improve children’s attentiveness by nearly 20 percent (FTC Docket No. C-4262, Leibowitz, Harbour, Kovacic, Rosch, 2010).
Beginning in approximately late July 2009, Kellogg distributed (or caused to be distributed) advertising for Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal, Kellogg’s Jumbo Multi-grain Krispies cereal, Kellogg’s Frosted Krispies cereal, and Kellogg’s Cocoa Krispies cereal (hereafter collectively “Krispies cereal”) that included representations about the benefits of Krispies cereal for children’s immunity (FTC Docket No. C-4262, Leibowitz, Harbour, Kovacic, Rosch, 2010).
The Commission reopened the proceeding in FTC v. Kellogg 2009 Docket No. C-4262, pursuant to Section 3.72(b) of the Commission’s Rules of Practice, 16 C.F.R. § 3.72(b), and modified the Order for the new complaint (FTC v. Kellogg 2010) (FTC Docket No. C-4262, Leibowitz, Harbour, Kovacic, Rosch, 2010).
The modification expands the product and claim coverage of the order to require proof for all health claims for any food, and revises the definition of “competent and reliable scientific evidence” to ensure that Kellogg Company doesn’t misrepresent study and research results. Kellogg consented to reopening this docket and to the modifications set forth (FTC Docket No. C-4262, Leibowitz, Harbour, Kovacic, Rosch, 2010).
It is further ordered that Kellogg shall not represent, in any manner, expressly or by implication, that:
“The benefits, performance, or efficacy of such product for cognitive function, cognitive processes, or cognitive health; or”
“any other health benefit of such product;”
unless the representation is non-misleading, and, at the time of making such representation, respondent possesses and relies upon competent and reliable scientific evidence (FTC Docket No. C-4262, Leibowitz, Harbour, Kovacic, Rosch, 2010).
Video: Kellogg's false advertising in Rice Krispies commercial in 2010.
Video: Smart Trend News covers Kellogg’s false claim of Rice Krispies’ benefits on cognitive functions