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Ted 2: Thou Shalt Not Breed



Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Medicating Breakfast

Posted by Patrick Alan Coleman on Wed, May 13, 2009 at 4:49 PM

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I’m not a big breakfast eater. The closest I usually come to the “most important meal” is whatever booze and juice combo I happen to be using to beat back the vengeful screaming remnants of the previous night’s drunk. Then, after a toe curling cup of strong coffee and a few aspirin, I may feel robust enough to poke at a plate of biscuits and gravy. I suppose by definition you can call that breakfast, since I’m essentially breaking my fast, but it seems somehow disingenuous considering the above scenario generally takes place well after noon. It’s more self-medicating than breakfast.

Recently, the FDA may have added you to the list of those who self-medicate for breakfast. In a letter posted on their website last week, addressed to CEO of the General Mills Corp. Ken Powell, they forcefully and unapologetically labeled Cheerios brand toasted-o’s—the fun sized Lusitania life preservers in every child’s morning milk; the oft soggy harbingers of all the days glories and failures—a drug. Not only a drug, but an “unapproved new drug.” Hence:

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 because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease. Specifically, your Cheerios® product bears the following claims ort its label:

"you can Lower Your Cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks" "

"Did you know that in just 6 weeks Cheerios can reduce bad cholesterol by an average of 4 percent? Cheerios is ... clinically proven to lower cholesterol. A clinical study showed that eating two 1 1/2 cup servings daily of Cheerios cereal reduced bad cholesterol when eaten as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol."

Therefore, Cheerios must be a drug. A drug that’s been on the market since 1941. So, not necessarily new, per se, but still… The main quibble the FDA appears to have with General Mills is based on marketing. Should the health claims be taken off of the Cheerios box, the issue would be solved. If not, General Mills will be forced to get FDA approval to sell Cheerios as a cholesterol-lowering drug.

In a way, I’m glad that the FDA has taken on this fight. The lines between food and pharmaceuticals has been blurring steadily over the last decade. At this very moment you can walk into a grocery store and buy an FDA approved margarine that is supposed to actively reduce cholesterol. It’s not a food. It’s not a drug. It’s something in-between. And frankly, it frightens me. But then again, I may just be reading too much Michael Pollan.

Still, I wonder at the marketing guru’s who have sought to turn the aisles of our grocery stores into an edible pharmacy. Maybe it has something to do with the broken health care system in our country. No health insurance? Then at least you can take some kind of control by buying this magical box of cholesterol reducing Cheerios. I get it. But as Pollan would surely point out, there are other foods with cholesterol-lowering qualities and medical studies to back up the purported benefits to your health. They’re called vegetables and whole grains. They’re a couple aisles over and they’re not boasting.

At the same time, though, this FDA action seems patently ridiculous. General Mills has been using this marketing ploy for years now. If there had been side affects from massive amounts of Cheerios consumption, I think we’d have heard about it by now. From experience, I can tell you a Cheerios binge only seems to result in gas... and maybe a perception that you’ve grown exponentially healthier with each bowl, meaning you can drink more.

Never-the-less, General Mills must respond to the FDA letter appropriately, or:

Enforcement action may include seizure of violative products and/or injunction against the manufacturers and distributors of violative products.

In the meantime, I’ll stick with my Bloody Marys. I’m riding the liquid liquor breakfast train straight in to healthyville! After all, there’s veggies in there, right? That must be good for something.

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