Chalk this one up to a supercharged political environment that now attaches suspicions to cereal-box labels as well as virus vaccines: Kellogg has just announced that it is backing away from the “Immunity” claim on its Rice Krispies and Cocoa Krispies cereals.
As we reported Tuesday, critics recently scored Kellogg for emblazoning the claim, “Now Helps Support Your Child’s IMMUNITY” on the front of the packages after boosting the daily value of antioxidant vitamins A, C and E in the cereals to 25% last spring, from the earlier 10%.
San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera protested that Kellogg’s claim implied that its cereals could help protect kids against the swine-flu epidemic, and might mislead parents -- though Kellogg had been developing the line for more than a year, well before the advent of the H1N1 scare, and rolled it out in May.
Of course, the ubiquity of the virus by now, the deaths it has caused, and the ambivalence of American parents about the H1N1 vaccine created a sensitive landing place for such allegations.
So, wisely for the sake of its iconic product brands, Kellogg has backed off. “Science shows that these antioxidants help support the immune system,” Kellogg said in a statement, but “given the public attention on H1N1, the company decided to make this change.” It will take a few months for all the cereal boxes that bear the claim to move through the retail system, said Kellogg, which nevertheless will retain the higher vitamin levels in the cereals.
No word yet on whether the food police next will attack any of the dozens of other products that have begun bearing some sort of “Immunity” claim over the last few years, including Dannon’s DanActive yogurt drink, General Mills’ Green Giant Health Blends frozen vegetables, and a product that is aimed even more squarely at children than Rice Krispies: Abbott Laboratories’ Kid Essentials nutrition drinks.
It appears that nutritionists and others want mainstream food and beverage companies to make their products more nutritious -- the companies just aren’t supposed to talk about it.