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General Mills to Improve Cheerios Protein Labeling

Move Resolves Litigation Brought by CSPI in 2015

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General Mills will prominently state on labels for Cheerios Protein that the cereal is sweetened and will more clearly disclose protein content, resolving a class action claim brought in 2015 by the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest on behalf of consumers. The complaint alleged that the company misled consumers by giving them the impression that the main factor distinguishing Cheerios Protein from original Cheerios was the amount of protein.  In fact, though the cereals have different serving sizes, two ounces of each cereal has just about the same amount of protein. Cheerios Protein, however, has 16 to 17 times as much sugar as the original, according to CSPI.

As part of the settlement agreement announced today, General Mills will also stop adding the four grams of protein from milk to the seven grams of protein from the cereal when it states the protein content on the front panel of Cheerios Protein boxes. The words “Sweetened Whole Grain and Oat Cereal” will appear on the front of the box in a font at least 50 percent as large as the font used for the word “protein,” instead of the current, smaller font.

Cheerios Protein has 17 grams, or about four teaspoons, of added sugars. Excess added sugars in the diet promote weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.

“The improvements that General Mills has agreed to make on Cheerios Protein will make it less likely for consumers to be tricked into thinking that Cheerios Protein is simply a protein-enriched version of original Cheerios, when it is not,” said CSPI litigation director Maia Kats. “This settlement is a significant victory for consumers and sends a strong message to the food industry that similarly misleading products should be relabeled.”

The lawsuit was brought in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California. Besides CSPI’s Kats, plaintiffs were represented by CSPI’s Matthew Simon, Laurence D. King and Mario Choi of Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP, and Michael R. Reese of Reese LLP.

“We were pleased to collaborate with CSPI and Reese LLP in obtaining these significant labeling changes for Cheerios Protein consumers,” said King.

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Contact Jeff Cronin (jcronin[at]cspinet.org) or Henry Duong (hduong[at]cspinet.org).