Are Manufacturers using Deceptive Advertising to Capitalize on Consumer Concern over H1N1?
Kellogg, the nation’s largest cereal maker, recently slapped a label on its kid-friendly Rice Krispies and Cocoa Krispies cereal brands which tout that the product “Now Helps Support your Child’s Immunity.” While it’s true that Kellogg added some vitamin A, B, C and E to their cereal, health care professionals have been extremely critical of the leap Kellogg has made from the addition of certain vitamins to the claim that the product “helps support immunity.” One vocal critic is Kelly Brownell, director of Yale University’s Rudd Center for Food Policy who was quoted as saying “[b]y their logic, you can spray vitamins on a pile of leaves and it will boost immunity.”
Health care professionals aren’t the only consumer advocates who have taken issue with Kellogg’s claims. Shortly after the “immunity claim” plastered boxes hit shelves, , the city of San Francisco wrote a letter to Kellogg and the FDA asking Kellogg to prove its claim. “I am concerned the prominent use of the immunity claims to advertise sugar-laden chocolate cereal like Cocoa Krispies may mislead and deceive the parents of young children” said Dennis Herrera, San Francisco‘s City Attorney.
Following San Francisco’s efforts to demand substantiation of Kellogg’s claim, the Attorney General’s office of Oregon made a similar appeal to the company. Keith Dubanevich of the Oregon’s Attorney General’s office offered the following reasoning for seeking substantiation, “[t]he implied claim that if somebody ate Cocoa Krispies it might help them avoid getting swine flu, and given the season, that’s a pretty important claim to be making.”
It is telling that in response to the public pressure, rather than provide scientific data to support its claims, Kellogg has opted to remove the label from all cereal boxes by January 15, 2010. This response not only offers insight to the validity of Kellogg’s claims, but begs the broader questions: to what degree should we accept manufacturer’s claims at face value, and how often are we, as consumers, unconsciously manipulated by deceitful advertising?