General Question

SquirrelEStuff's avatar

Is Cheerios really a drug?

Asked by SquirrelEStuff (9773points) May 12th, 2009

“Based on claims made on your product’s label, we have determined that your Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug,” the FDA said in a letter to General Mills which was posted on the federal agency’s website Tuesday.

Cheerios labels claim that eating the cereal can help lower bad cholesterol, a risk factor for coronary heart disease, by four percent in six weeks.

Citing a clinical study, the product labels also claim that eating two servings a day of Cheerios helps to reduce bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, the FDA letter says.

Those claims indicate that Cheerios—said by General Mills to be the best-selling cereal in the United States—is intended to be used to lower cholesterol and prevent, lessen or treat the disease hypercholesterolemia, and to treat and prevent coronary heart disease.

“Because of these intended uses, the product is a drug,” the FDA concluded in its letter.

Not only that, but Cheerios is a new drug because it has not been “recognized as safe and effective for use in preventing or treating hypercholesterolemia or coronary heart disease,” the FDA said.

That means General Mills may not legally market Cheerios unless it applies for approval as a new drug or changes the way it labels the small, doughnut-shaped cereal, the FDA said.

Again, when does government get too big?

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45 Answers

bea2345's avatar

Are you sure that General Mills did not start out as a snake oil salesman?

El_Cadejo's avatar

…..<blank stares>......

DeanV's avatar

Maybe not, but i’m addicted to them…

Allie's avatar

I’m only addicted to the Honey Nut Cheerios. Or plain Cheerios with a massive amount of sugar on top. My breakfast looks like the Alps when I’m done with the sugar. =] It’s good with sliced bananas in it too. Sometimes strawberries. I layer it… cereal, bananas, sugar, bananas, cereal, sugar.

….What was the question?

cak's avatar

@Allie bwahahahahahahaha!! The Alps! Ha!

casheroo's avatar

I always thought it helepd because the person wasn’t eating something unhealthy, and eating their healthy Cheerios instead. lol

arnbev959's avatar

The FDA is not saying that Cheerios is a drug; they are saying that General Mills makes a claim that they cannot make without testing their product as a drug, and getting it approved as such.

I disagree with the FDA that “Those claims indicate that Cheerios… is intended to be used to lower cholesterol and prevent, lessen or treat the disease hypercholesterolemia, and to treat and prevent coronary heart disease.”

I can see how this might fall in the same category as Listerine’s claim to prevent the common cold, but come on. Everyone knows that Cheerios is a cereal—not a drug. And eating them for breakfast every morning probably does help lower cholesterol.

augustlan's avatar

Jeez… this does seem like they’re taking it a bit too far. Don’t mess with my Cheerios!

PupnTaco's avatar

Drugs don’t make my pee smell funky.

SeventhSense's avatar

I’m guessing that the attorneys will just do some tweaking to the advertising and it will be business as usual. Maybe a disclaimer in their commercials. I have to admit that I have bought Cheerios on more than one occasion as a result of these claims, having no basis of their authenticity. I just like them and I figure they can’t be that bad for you.
that was the asparagus you had for dinner :)

casheroo's avatar

@PupnTaco Then you haven’t had some of the antibiotics I’ve had…

Darwin's avatar

Apparently back in 1996, the FDA decided oatmeal and oat bran do have a positive effect on health, thanks to Quaker Oats who got them to say so specifically. However, the wording is apparently slightly different on the Cheerios box, so the FDA, ever alert to life-threatening situations (huh) has warned General Mills.

What it looks like to me is semantics.

“FDA regulates health claims on food labels under provisions
of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990 to ensure
that claims are accurate and not misleading to consumers. The
law allows the agency to authorize a health claim only if there
is significant scientific agreement that the claim is true.
In March 1995 Quaker Oats Co. petitioned FDA to allow
claims of health benefits on products containing oatmeal or oat
bran. In response, the agency reviewed more than 37 clinical
studies on the effects of oatmeal and oat bran in reducing serum
cholesterol levels in the body and lowering risk of coronary
heart disease.
FDA also reviewed an evaluation of studies on the health
effects of oatmeal and oat bran conducted by the Federation of
American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB). The FASEB
review was published in a 1987 FASEB report entitled,
“Physiological Effects & Health Consequences of Dietary Fiber.”
FDA found that the studies demonstrated significant
scientific agreement on the beneficial effects of oatmeal and oat
bran. FDA is in agreement with most dietary experts in its
conclusion that eating oatmeal or oat bran can reduce the risk of
coronary heart disease when part of an overall diet that is low
in saturated fat and cholesterol.
However, based on the scientific evidence, FDA cannot
conclude that eating oatmeal or oat bran in and of itself reduces
risk of heart disease.
FDA’s model health claim reads as follows: Diets high in
oatmeal or oat bran and low in saturated fat and cholesterol may
reduce the risk of heart disease.

The paper goes on to say:

Manufacturers of food products containing oatmeal and oat
bran may develop their own language for the health claim, subject
to FDA review and provided that the wording is in accord with the
evidence indicating that a reduction of heart disease risk is
associated with consumption of oatmeal and oat bran only when
incorporated with other healthy dietary and lifestyle practices.

Sounds like General Mills either forgot to get the FDA to review the health claim, or some bureaucrat has their panties in a wad.

eponymoushipster's avatar

well, they’re addictive to 3 yr olds.

justwannaknow's avatar

FDA should be more concerned with approving drugs that will help people than with a breakfast cereal that makes a health claim.

kevbo's avatar

I am outraged that Cheerios has grossly misappropriated the doughnut shape.

Lothloriengaladriel's avatar

Idk but the new banana cheerios are amazing with or without milk!

cyndyh's avatar

Only if you free base them.

If they’re a drug are they a gateway drug? What do they lead to?

augustlan's avatar

@cyndyh Captian Crunch, obviously. ;)

cyndyh's avatar

Ha! And then Fruit Loops, Cocoa Puffs, and hanging off season clothing on my treadmill? Therein lies danger. :^>

dynamicduo's avatar

The FDA is in the business of regulating medicine as well as health claims made by people selling products. Thus it seems quite logical that they would take issue with Cheerios’ packaging label, provided the label advocates a health benefit of some type.

The question is not whether Cheerios is a drug (that’s called a strawman argument, and you’d raise your credibility by avoiding such behaviour). The question is, is Cheerios making a medical claim about its product? And the answer is yes. Thus they fall under regulation of the FDA. Is it logical? Well yes, otherwise any cereral company (or any product, really) could many any claim and not have to verify it.

SeventhSense's avatar

Oh yes they are certainly a gateway cereal. One day the children are peacefully nibbling away on Grape Nuts and Corn Flakes and then they are lured away by the innocent allure of that donut looking oat wonder.
Soon after it’s the fruit loops with their “alternative lifestyles”.
And the end of this road is always the same. It’s the unholy trinity of Franken Berry, Count Chocula and Boo Berry…I shudder to think of it.
The end is always the same.
Veruca’s still in rehab.

cyndyh's avatar

Is Violet there with her?

SeventhSense's avatar

Those two are inseparable.:)

jbfletcherfan's avatar

I don’t care if Cheerios is a drug or not. I eat them almost every morning. Even when we’re traveling. I just like the tase of them & if they help my cholesterol, that’s even better yet.

SeventhSense's avatar

I thought you nibbled on acorns?

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@SeventhSense Honey, I’ll nibble on any kind of nut. ’-)

jbfletcherfan's avatar

@SeventhSense Waaaa….do I HAVE to??? ’-)

filmfann's avatar

Yes it’s a drug! One spoonful, and I am seeing lots of swirling colors!
oh wait a minute, that’s Trix

DeanV's avatar

Silly filmfann, Trix are for kids. Everybody knows they are the only ones that can digest them.

CMaz's avatar

It is just a bit hard to get into the vain.

eponymoushipster's avatar

Product 19 sounds like a drug; Special K, too.

“oh dude, my weekend was wild. I got lost in the Special K-hole…”

SeventhSense's avatar

Better hope you always come out lab test monkey…

El_Cadejo's avatar

@eponymoushipster thats because Special K is a drug :P

eponymoushipster's avatar

@uberbatman true. but most 45yr old, yoga pants wearing, prius driving soccer moms aren’t popped out on that special k.

SeventhSense's avatar

So….you were in someone’s Special K hole?

eponymoushipster's avatar

@SeventhSense a gentleman never drops in a hole and tells

SeventhSense's avatar

Hey, I never said anything about the “a hole”…and who’s this gentleman? J/K :)~

eponymoushipster's avatar

@SeventhSense gentleman? surely you jest.

SeventhSense's avatar

What up e? Long time no see. I guess we haven’t been hanging from the same trees.
i haven’t been on here for weeks though so maybe that has something to do with it

eponymoushipster's avatar

@SeventhSense yes, perhaps that’s it. :) welcome back.

Zen_Again's avatar

I still love the plain cheerios flavour the best.

clarice's avatar

Yikes. I agree with @Zen_Again

Zen_Again's avatar

Welcome to fluther @clarice – you are already showing promise.

Avangelo's avatar

Technically a drug is anything that changes the way your body functions. Therefore everything we eat, drink or breath is a drug. Cheerios has been advertising this for years so why fuck with them now.

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