Claims That Bread with Added Calcium Could Help Brain Function and Memory Alleged to be Unsubstantiated
The marketers of Wonder Bread have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that ads claiming that Wonder Bread containing added calcium could improve children's brain function and memory were unsubstantiated and violated federal law. According to the FTC, the maker of Wonder Bread, Interstate Bakeries Corp. (IBC), aired an ad featuring a fictional spokesperson, Professor Wonder, who made claims that as a good source of calcium, Wonder Bread helps children's minds work better and helps their memory. The Commission alleges that IBC and its ad agency, Campbell Mithun LLC (Campbell), did not have adequate substantiation to make such health benefit claims for Wonder Bread. The proposed settlements announced today will bar the companies from making certain types of health benefit claims in the future, unless they have adequate substantiation.
Interstate Bakeries, based in Kansas City, Missouri, markets and sells baked goods under numerous national and regional brand names, including Wonder. Campbell Mithun, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was the ad agency involved in creating, preparing and disseminating the challenged ad. According to the product's packaging, Wonder Bread is "fortified" and "enriched," containing several vitamins and minerals such as calcium, folic acid, iron, thiamine (vitamin B), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and Niacin (vitamin B3). In the ad challenged by the FTC, Professor Wonder describes certain purported health benefits of calcium - that it helps children's minds work better and helps memory - and emphasizes that Wonder Bread has been fortified to be a "good source" of calcium. The complaints allege that IBC and Campbell did not have substantiation for the claims that, as a good source of calcium, Wonder Bread helps children's minds work better and helps them remember things. The Campbell complaint alleges that the ad agency knew or should have known these claims were unsubstantiated.
The proposed settlements announced today for public comment would prohibit both IBC and Campbell from claiming that any bread product, or any of its ingredients, helps brain function or memory, or can treat, cure or prevent any disease or related health condition, unless they have reliable scientific substantiation for the claims. The orders would allow the respondents to make representations specifically permitted by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent agreements for public comment was 4-0, with Commissioner Sheila Anthony recused. An announcement regarding the proposed consent agreements will be published in the Federal Register shortly. The agreements will be subject to public comment for 30 days, until April 8, 2002, after which the Commission will decide whether to make them final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $11,000.
Copies of the proposed consent agreements, complaints and analyses to aid in public comment are available from the FTC's Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.