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FDA: Are Cheerios a drug or a breakfast cereal?

Are Cheerios a drug or a breakfast cereal? The U.S. Food and Drug Administrations says General Mills will need to decide. The agency sent a letter to the company condemning its health-related marketing claims about the cereal.

Are Cheerios a drug or a breakfast cereal?

That’s what General Mills will have to decide, following a warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration accusing the company of misbranding the health benefits of eating Cheerios.

Cheerios packaging claims that eating Cheerios “can Lower Your Cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks.” In order to make that type of claim, the cereal-maker will have to apply for approval as a new drug.

Food companies are not allowed to quantify the health benefits of their foods in marketing, the Associated Press reports.

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The FDA letter also says the company’s claim about whole-grain foods lowering the risk of heart disease is deceptive without the full, legally required context. Food packages must state that a diet with whole grains and fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.

A spokesman for General Mills tells the Associated Press that the science behind its Cheerios claims “is not in question” and that it will work with the FDA to make the language compliant. (More: Reuters, Star Tribune, Wall Street Journal)