The Cheerios Kerfluffle

The story got big because it has roots deep in history. Cereals developed as a health food, and health claims have always been part of the game. Deregulation let manufacturers go back to making such claims, a decade ago.

I love me some Cheerios in the morning.

I love the way they bounce on top of the milk and absorb it slowly. If I get interrupted by the phone while eating them, I can return in a few minutes and still enjoy them. Flakes turn into glue in that time.

I am also a future heart patient. My cholesterol is high and I take drugs for hypertension. So I have been amused as General Mills has added health claims to its ads and packaging.

I didn't take them seriously but the new FDA did. And so we have a growing controversy over the Cheerios box.

The Wall Street Journal says the FDA is treating Cheerios like a drug.  Rush Limbaugh says we shouldn't worry about it. The Washington Post disdainfully reports the FDA is making the world safe from Cheerios.

In fact the agency just sent General Mills a warning letter,  restating the long-held principle that if you're going to make health claims in your ads or packaging back them up. The FDA was created during the first cereal boom, early in the last century

The story got big because it has roots deep in history. Cereals developed as a health food, and health claims have always been part of the game. Deregulation let manufacturers go back to making such claims, a decade ago.

The industry is reluctant to lose that health patina, in part, because it changed in the last decade in order to pursue it. Sugar is no longer the big selling point, although it remains a major ingredient. Now the pitch is straight out of The Road to Wellville.

So this issue is symbolic on many levels. It represents a reversal in the direction of policy, one with deep roots in history. The ridicule has not caused the agency to reverse course, which is newsworthy. So far General Mills isn't backing down, either.

Something to enjoy with my morning Cheerios.