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If you can't trust a Cheerios box...

May 12, 2009 |  4:22 pm

Cheerios Those toasted Os may be crunchy. They may go great with milk. You could go so far as to say they're part of a nutritious breakfast. But perhaps promoting them as a drug that can lower cholesterol is going too far.

That's what the Food and Drug Administration says the familiar yellow box does.

In a warning letter sent to the chairman of General Mills (maker of the beloved breakfast classic) and posted on the agency's website, the FDA says:

"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."

The agency takes special issue with these claims:  

* "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."

What effect such a letter will have remains to be seen. But it didn't do much to hurt General Mills stock as this Bloomberg story reports.

Here's more on the nutritional merits of whole grains from the Harvard School of Public Health. And if you appreciate context, you'll like the part about industrialized roller mills.

-- Tami Dennis

Photo: Cereal isn't supposed to say such things. Drugs can. But not cereal.

Credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images