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Kellog’s Mini Wheats

Wake up rise and shine, brush the teeth, wait a moment and smell the delicate aroma sipping through the bedroom door, savor the smell, cherish the desire and hurriedly prepare for whatever we opt to and go the kitchen counter table to witness the delicacy waiting for us. A bowl of delicious cereal with hot milk, sugar, cookies and eggs-a perfect meal to start the day and smile all along the way. But, is the cereal we are eating is as nutritious as the mom on that commercial claim to be? Is what we are eating really beneficial for our health? Take Kellogg’s Mini Wheat for example and let’s review their claims for a perfect and nutritious cereal.

Kellogg claimed in a national advertising campaign – including television, print, and Internet advertising, as well as product packaging, that a breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheat’s cereal is clinically shown to improve children’s attentiveness by nearly 20 percent. The complaint alleges that, in fact, according to the clinical study referred to in Kellogg’s advertising, only about half the children who ate Frosted Mini-Wheat for breakfast showed any improvement in attentiveness, and only about one in nine improved by 20 percent or more.

The method used to test the results was experimental as opposed to co-relational, survey or naturalistic observation. Among these, naturalistic observation is a research method commonly used by psychologists and other social scientists. This technique involves observing subjects in their natural environment. This type of research is often utilized in situations where conducting lab research is unrealistic, cost prohibitive or would unduly affect the subject’s behavior. This sort of observation often limits results as it deals with one-on-one basis evaluation. For mass evaluation this technique has its limitations. Survey method on the other hand is much widespread and yield a lot more useful information as compared to naturalistic observation, as it deals with people reaction to certain queries and their response are quite adequate to the problem at hand. Plus it is also useful when dealing with problems that cannot be directly observed and hence, indirect methods are employed to solve a problem. Correlation is a statistical method to compare two variables and then compare their results respectively to establish a connection and then evaluate the response initiated by each variable when another is fluctuated. This method is useful as it provides a positive and negative correlation between the two variables. The biggest flaw, however,  is the fact that one is not able to prove an actual cause and effect connection exists which means that even though, one can observe a change in variables but they cannot justify the phenomenon of change which in return restrict evaluation. Hence, Kellogg’s technique to acutely judge their subject through means of experiment was adequate and it surfaced some valuable yet not-new information and they paid the price for breaking a federal law.

This is not the first time Kellogg had made ridiculous theories about diseases and eating their breakfast cereal will shunt those said diseases. According to the Marion Nestle, a nutrition professor at the New York University saw the false information written at the back of the cereal box back in August “The idea that eating Cocoa Krispies will keep a kid from getting swine flu, or from catching a cold, doesn’t make sense. Yes, these nutrients are involved in immunity, but I can’t think of a nutrient that isn’t involved in the immune system.” Nestle wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration at the time, but still has not got any response from the concerned.

Let’s check how they managed to get this information from their tests;

Kellogg’s fed children a breakfast of either their Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal or a glass of water. They then gave them “a series of tests each hour for three consecutive hours.”

“A clinical study showed kids who ate a filling breakfast of KELLOGG’S FROSTED MINI-WHEATS cereal had 11% better attentiveness compared to kids who missed out on breakfast.”

“A clinical study showed kids who ate a filling breakfast of KELLOGG’S FROSTED MINI-WHEATS cereal had 23% better quality of memory when compared to kids who missed out on breakfast.”

What does this claim actually means? If we check the fine print on the box, we’ll find the reality of the claim;

“Based upon independent clinical research, kids who ate Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats® cereal for breakfast had up to 18% better attentiveness three hours after breakfast than kids who ate no breakfast”.

As a critic I find it hard to digest and then laugh out loud at such silly obviousness. The importance of breakfast is not something that is shrouded in mystery and buried in the tomb in the middle of the desert, guarded by zombies. Everyone knows the importance of eating breakfast in the morning and people particularly children get extreme health issues if avoid breakfast. Moreover, Kellogg’s claim isn’t in comparison with the fellow competitor’s cereal. The claim would have been a lot more interesting in this critic’s opinion if it had been made against another product and then evaluation would have been much more interesting and helpful. If as a person we do not eat breakfast and go to work, it’s clinically proven that we will feel sleepy and dizzy, we will lack attentiveness and it will be really hard for us to concentrate. Now, instead if we eat Kellogg’s cereal, off course, we are shoving food in our belly and it will bound to help us in one way or another. Hence, the claim was stupid and absurd and it is no wonder they suffered the wrath of FTC.

According to the FTC i.e. Federal Trade Commission , Kellogg was misrepresenting a study which actually found that only about half the children who ate Frosted Mini-Wheats for breakfast showed any improvement in attentiveness, and only about one in nine improved by 20% or more. The FTC called Kellogg’s claims false and said they violated the law, but the cereal company’s only punishment (other than the bit of bad press the company received over the phony advertising statements) is that it must stop making false claims about its Frosted Mini-Wheats. The company is also barred from advertising health related issues on their cereal box. It will also forbid the company from making comparable claims about Frosted Mini-Wheats unless the claims are true and not misleading. It requires that claims about the benefits to cognitive health, process, or function provided by Frosted Mini-Wheats or any morning food or snack food be substantiated and true. The settlement would prohibit Kellogg from misrepresenting the results of tests, studies, or research regarding any morning or snack food product.

The FTC’s proposed settlement—which the commission pointed out “does not constitute an admission of a law violation” on the part of Kellogg—is open for public comment through May 19. After that date, the commission will determine whether to finalize the agreement. Once it becomes final, Kellogg could be subjected to a fine of $16,000 and other penalties should the company break the terms of the agreement.

Kellogg issued a statement saying, “We stand behind the validity of our clinical study yet have adjusted our communication to incorporate FTC’s guidance.”

Many organization and individuals have raised their eye brows on the validity of Kellogg’s experiment and research. Let’s review again their findings and I quote from their own website;

“The study was conducted by an independent research group and then reviewed by third-party cognition experts. A series of cognitive tests were conducted in 8 –12 yr old children from various backgrounds. Children were tested prior to eating breakfast to get a base measurement. Then, children were either provided a breakfast of Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats® cereal or water. Next, the children were given a series of tests (the same tests and measurements as prior to the breakfast) each hour for three consecutive hours. The results were taken for three hours after breakfast since this is most likely when children may start to feel hungry, which may lead to distraction and decreased ability to retain and recall what they are being taught. A description of the actual tests taken is found below.

The study used a computerized assessment system, which is the most common type of testing today. The computerized system is quite similar to the traditional “pencil and paper” testing and is most commonly used today. The advanced technology of computerized testing offers more accurate measures in the response time as well as speed and accuracy of the response”.

The methods employed were up-to-date and contained no error except the need to compare with the cereal of other brand and then co-relate the attentiveness ratio. If it were done in this manner, concerned parents would get a clear view of what to buy next on their trip to grocery store. Apart form this no moral and ethical issues can be raised on this and people mounting concern over this new form of theory (which is not so new now) should be no more than a paranoia.

Benefits of eating breakfast cannot be stressed more than it already had in this article. People in their hurry to their work often tend to forget eating the most important meal of the day which affects them in latter life. So do eat breakfast and eat healthy.