Good or Excellent "Source of Whole Grain"

A major food manufacturer is touting its revised breakfast cereals, saying all the products are now “made with whole grain” and all will now be “either a 'good’ or 'excellent’ source of whole grain.” 

The key word here is “with”. Many products of various types are made “with” whole grains, meaning they contain some whole grain ingredients. This does not mean they use only whole grains (although that may be the intended message), and such is the case with these products, which never claim to use only whole grains for all the grain-based ingredients. While the first ingredient may be a whole grain ingredient, it is often corn (particularly in the case of children’s cereals), which is not very well endowed with nutrients (including fiber), and the second and third ingredients are often sugars and/or refined grains (often comprising close to 1/2 total calories). The marketing is misleading by implying that these cereals are healthier, when most still are low in fiber (less than 2.5 g per serving) and high in sugar. Unfortunately, they can legally call the cereals “healthy” due to low fat content and vitamin fortification.

The FDA-approved health claim this company uses states: “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers.” This claim was written by them and defined by them to include the criteria that a qualifying product “contains 51% whole grain ingredient(s) or more by weight per reference amount…” This allows a 30 g serving of cereal with only 1.7 g fiber to qualify as “whole grain” (and many of these “improved” cereals still don’t meet that criteria) -- 1/3 less than the criteria for “good source of fiber.” As for the claims that their products are now either a “good or excellent source of whole grain,” there is no such good/excellent “source” definition for whole grain. Granted, using more whole grain is a step in the right direction, but the hype for these products is overstated (there are many cereals by other manufacturers that contain more whole grain, less sugar, less salt and more fiber).

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