FDA calls Cheerios an “Unapproved Drug”
For Immediate Release: May 14, 2009
Contact: Tami L. Wahl, 800.230.2762
FDA CALLS CHEERIOS AN “UNAPPROVED DRUG”
SCIENCE BEHIND THE CEREAL’S HEALTH CLAIMS REMAINS UNCHALLENGED
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter to cereal manufacturer General Mills for claiming on its cereal box that Cheerios can help lower cholesterol, and saying on their website that “diets rich in whole grain foods can reduce the risk of heart disease.” The letter, dated May 5, 2009, called the above claims “serious violations” of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and applicable regulations. FDA stated that based on the claims made, Cheerios is now an unapproved drug, and must go through FDA new drug approval process.
The American Association for Health Freedom (AAHF) has long advocated for consumer access to science-based information about food and food products. As AAHF Executive Director Gretchen DuBeau commented, “On any given evening, drug companies bombard viewers with questionable drug advertisements with potential side effects that often include death. General Mills is making a straightforward claim. FDA’s response—that a popular breakfast cereal has suddenly become ‘an unapproved drug’—is the height of absurdity. Is this the best use of the resources of an agency that is falling short in many other areas?”
FDA has issued warning letters in the past to various food producers to keep them from telling consumers about the healthful nature of their products. For example, cherry growers were targeted and enjoined from referencing peer-reviewed scientific articles proving cherries’ health benefits for gout and arthritis. For years, FDA barred health claims about the benefits of fish oil for heart, cancer, depression, body pain, and various other conditions until a drug company paid a great deal of money to go through the approval process. This type of enforcement effectively censors scientific information and greatly restricts consumer access to scientific studies that provide valuable information.
DuBeau continues, “FDA is now declaring Cheerios an unapproved drug. Does this make us feel any safer from tainted peanut butter, or from overused drugs with dangerous side effects that do have FDA approval?”
AAHF Legislative Director Tami Wahl added: “FDA is not questioning the validity of the claims made by General Mills. Instead, FDA is saying General Mills cannot tell consumers that Cheerios can have beneficial health effects. The policy behind FDA’s action is government censorship, plain and simple. For General Mills not to be able to inform the public about the scientific evidence that Cheerios can help lower cholesterol—a rising health concern for Americans—serves no purpose.”
“American consumers want to take charge of their personal health, and need as much valid information as possible to help them make responsible choices,” Wahl added. “Would the FDA prefer that consumers not eat healthy foods, so they can be treated after the fact with FDA-approved drugs? The FDA drug approval process is a time-consuming and incredibly expensive process that is inappropriate for food products,” Wahl concluded. “FDA’s position that it should control all scientific information related to public health is government censorship at its worst.”
In the best interest of consumers, science-based claims about food and food products should be freely cited. AAHF believes consumers have the right to access all scientific studies about food and food products—not just the studies the government has approved because a manufacturer has paid for the privilege.
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NOTES TO THE EDITOR:
About the American Association for Health Freedom (AAHF):
AAHF is a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization that protects Americans’ rights to access integrative medicine and dietary supplements. AAHF protects the right of the consumer to choose and the practitioner to practice by lobbying Congress and state legislatures; educating the public, press, and decision-makers on integrative medicine; initiating legal activities; and joining and forming significant coalitions.