General Mills faces lawsuit for improperly labeling protein cheerios as having more protein

The US consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is slamming a legal case against General Mills – maker of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Fiber One, Cheerios, and Lucky Charms for improperly labeling its Protein Cheerios cereal product as having more protein in order to gain more sales when it actually does not have any significant amount of protein content than the original Cheerios.

According to Michael Jacobson, president of CSPI, the impression customers would have from the nutrition label on the box of Protein Cheerios is that it has more protein than the traditional version, but investigations show that its level of protein is not much different from the original one even though it has more sugar. To the CSPI, that is a marketing gimmick, and it is deceptive.

Information available on General Mill’s website shows that the original Cheerios has 3 grams of protein and 1 gram of sugar, but the Protein Cheerios has 7 grams of protein and 17 grams of sugar. Yet the CSPI argues that the 4-gram difference in the two products does not warrant writing PROTEIN in bold letters on the box of the Protein Cheerios; simply because The Institute of Medicine advise men to take a daily allowance of 56 grams of protein and 46 grams for women.

Jacobson said the slight difference between the two products does not have any significance at all on people’s nutrition because the average American still consumes about 80 grams of protein per day.

Following an adjustment for the variation in the amount of protein packed by both products, researchers say Protein Cheerios has only 1 gram more protein by weight, and a fully comparison reveals not much sugar difference exists between the two. This means Protein Cheerios has only 8 instead of the 17 times sugar its other version has.

Jacobson said customers would know that there isn’t any much difference between the two Cheerios when making a purchasing decision because the fact to the minimal difference in protein levels isn’t made obvious for customers to see.

But General Mills waved off the arguments as attention-seeking, saying in an email that there is no misrepresentation anywhere and no customer is misled when making buying choices.

“To state the facts, an equal amount of Cheerios Protein contains 18 percent more protein by weight than original Cheerios,” General Mills responded via email. “Cheerios Protein contains 7 grams of protein per serving – and it does qualify as a good source of high-quality protein under the FDA standard. Cheerios Protein provides a good source of protein in every labeled serving-and it is accurately labeled.”