Much ado about nothing

These are tough times for food companies and marketers. Kellogg Co. will discontinue using an immunity statement, specifically "Now helps support your child's immunity," on Kellogg's Rice Krispies and Cocoa Krispies cereals after a flurry of criticism from the FDA and the media that these cereals are loaded with sugar.

In a statement, the company said it began adding antioxidants to the cereals last year, responding to parents, who indicated they wanted more positive nutrition in kids' cereals. While science shows that these antioxidants help support the immune system, given the public attention on H1N1, the company decided to make this change," the statement read. "We will, however, continue to provide the increased amounts of vitamins A, B, C and E that the cereal offers."

Okay, maybe it wasn't a brilliant marketing move on the part of Kellogg to use the word immunity on the front of package. Merriam-Webster defines immunity as the quality or state of being immune; a condition of being able to resist a particular disease especially through preventing development of a pathogenic microorganism or by counteracting the effects of its products. But in Kellogg's defense, antioxidants do help the immune system.

As we all know, the FDA announced it would create a universal front-of-package labeling system, ending not only the Smart Choices initiative, but all other labeling systems as well. Even though FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said she hopes the new labeling system will be in place at the end of next year, no one knows for certain what the timeframe actually is. Meanwhile, it behooves the industry to be careful in its claims and not promise more than it can deliver.

But, unlike most of the critics in this matter, I blame mom for bad food choices and the FDA for a lack of guidance on claims. Then again, I'm not a big fan of the government determining what I should eat based on what it decides is healthy for me. Isn't this the same agency that promotes the flawed Food Guide Pyramid?

As far as I'm concerned, food safety is where the FDA should concentrate its limited resources.