Between 2011 and 2014, more than 150 class-action lawsuits were filed over misleading claims on food packages. In an effort to meet consumer demand for health conscious products, food companies arbitrarily label their items “natural,” “wholesome,” and “organic.” Despite these labels, the nutrition facts tell a different story.
For example, in 2009, Kellogg’s was forced to remove an unfounded statement asserting that Frosted Mini-Wheats were “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness” by nearly 20 percent. More recently, the Food and Drug Administration asked KIND Snacks to remove the term "healthy", as well as the "+" featured on its packaging. (According to the FDA, the word "healthy" means that a product has one gram or less of saturated fat. The FDA identified four KIND bar varieties that contain 2.5 or more grams of saturated fat per bar.)
The most recent lawsuit filed is against General Mills over its Cheerios Protein product. According to the cereal’s packaging, Cheerios Protein provides 10 percent of the daily-recommended amount of protein. The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit group, is challenging these claims.
While one serving of Cheerios Protein does, in fact, contain four more grams of protein than traditional Cheerios, the serving size for the protein-packed cereal is double the normal amount. A serving of original Cheerios is 28 grams, while a serving of Cheerios protein is 55 grams. As the lawsuit points out, any additional protein “is attributable to differences in serving sizes.”
The real issue lies in the fact that consumers pay a premium for a supposedly healthier product. Cheerios Protein, which contains 17 grams of sugar per serving, can hardly be considered a nutritious option. While the nutritional value is disclosed on the back of the box, the plaintiffs believe that the marketing is misleading.
General Mills spokesman Mike Siemienas told Buzzfeed that the company rejects the comparison made by CPI. According to Siemienas, “an equal amount of Cheerios Protein contains 18 percent more protein by weight than original Cheerios.” Regardless of the lawsuit’s outcome, this incident reflects the general confusion and frustration felt among consumers in regard to health claims made by the food industry.
The accompanying slideshow is provided by fellow Daily Meal editorial staff member Bridget Creel.