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FDA Challenges Cheerios Health Claims

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking issue with Cheerios maker General Mills Inc., citing company claims that the cereal lowers cholesterol and can help treat heart disease, the Bloomberg news service reports.

The FDA told Bloomberg that it allows food companies to make 17 nutrition claims based on scientific studies and company petitions, but that Cheerios' claim of its cholesterol-lowering ability weren't cleared by the agency. The FDA said the heart disease and cancer claims on the Cheerios' Web site should include language saying that fruits and vegetables also help reduce risks, Bloomberg reported.

In a warning letter to General Mills, the FDA said the claim about Cheerios "does not enable the public to understand the significance of the claim in the context of the total daily diet." General Mills could face a court injunction or product seizure if it doesn't fix the issue within 15 days of the May 5 letter, Bloomberg reported.

General Mills was quick to respond that the science of its claims is not in question. "The FDA is interested in how the Cheerios cholesterol-lowering information is presented on the Cheerios package and Web site," Tom Forsythe, a spokesman for the Minneapolis-based company, said in an e-mailed statement, Bloomberg reported. "We look forward to discussing this with FDA and to reaching a resolution," Forsythe said.

According to General Mills' Web site, Cheerios has advertised that it can "lower your cholesterol 4 percent in 6 weeks" for more than two years.

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