Celiac.com 12/16/2015 - Just a month after General Mills recalled nearly two million boxes of gluten-free Cheerios from store shelves and warehouses due to "inadvertent" gluten contamination, the company and its flagship brand Cheerios are facing yet another public relations challenge.
General Mills is being sued for false advertising by a major consumer watchdog over its Cheerios Protein cereal, introduced in March, 2014, as a "healthy alternative" to both classic Cheerios and other breakfast cereals. According to an official complaint filed with the Northern California District Court by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), "General Mills falsely and misleadingly markets Cheerios Protein to children and adults as a high protein, healthful alternative to Cheerios."
According to the CSPI, while Cheerios Protein does contain a tiny bit more protein than classic Cheerios, General Mills has nearly doubled the recommended serving size for Cheerios Protein, making its protein content seem much greater than it actually is. So, while the "recommended serving size" of original Cheerios is 28g, the recommended serving of Cheerios Protein is 55g.
When you crunch the numbers, Cheerios Protein only has just 7/10 of a gram more protein than regular Cheerios, hardly a major source of protein, or a major improvement over regular Cheerios.
In their complaint, CSPI is accusing General Mills of engaging in what amounts to marketing sleight-of-hand, to trick consumers into paying an average of 70 cents more per box than other brands of Cheerios, for a product that contains an insignificant amount of extra protein, but 17 times more sugar than classic Cheerios.
Yes, even though they have about the same amount of protein by weight, a serving of original Cheerios contains just 1g of sugar, while a serving of Cheerios Protein will give you a whopping 17g of sugar; about the same as half a can of Coke. Basically, eating two bowls of original Cheerios will give you about the same amount of protein as Cheerios Protein, but with far less sugar, and at a lower cost.
That's where the lawsuit comes in. Basically, CSPI is hoping to use the courts to pressure General Mills to remove or revise their marketing cliams, which CSPI says, are little more than smoke and mirrors.
Stay tuned for the latest developments on this and related stories.
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