Maybe it should have just stuck with Snap, Crackle and Pop.
The Kellogg Company has agreed to advertising restrictions to resolve an investigation into its claims about the health benefits of its Rice Krispies cereal, the Federal Trade Commission said on Thursday.
The agreement expands on a settlement order that Kellogg agreed to last July over similar claims that another cereal, Frosted Mini-Wheats, was “clinically shown to improve kids’ attentiveness by nearly 20 percent.”
The commission acted against Kellogg as public health researchers and obesity opponents have intensified their challenges to the marketing of sugary foods.
“We expect more from a great American company than making dubious claims — not once, but twice — that its cereals improve children’s health,” Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the F.T.C., said in a statement.
Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at New York University, said it was unusual for the commission to act in a case involving health claims made for food products, an area traditionally handled by the Food and Drug Administration.
Last summer, Kellogg unveiled product packaging claiming that Rice Krispies “now helps support your child’s immunity” and that the cereal “has been improved to include antioxidants and nutrients that your family needs to help them stay healthy.”
In the order covering Frosted Mini-Wheats, Kellogg had agreed to stop making claims about benefits to “cognitive health, process or function provided by any cereal or any morning food or snack food” unless the claims were true and substantiated.
The new expanded order bars the company from making “claims about any health benefit of any food unless the claims are backed by scientific evidence and not misleading.”
In a statement, Kellogg, based in Battle Creek, Mich., said it had “a long history of responsible advertising,” but did not specifically address the latest accusations.
“We stand behind the validity of our product claims and research, so we agreed to an order that covers those claims,” the company said. “We believe that the revisions to the existing consent agreement satisfied any remaining concerns.”
Jennifer L. Harris, a psychologist who studies food marketing at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale, said the agreement highlighted the need to tighten requirements so that all health-related claims on packaging are based on scientific evidence, which is not the case now.
“As parents become more health-conscious, these claims try to make high-sugar cereals healthier than they really are,” she said.
A study by the Rudd Center found that the least healthful cereals were the ones most heavily marketed to children, and that children were exposed to more advertising for highly sweetened cereals than for any other kind of packaged food.