March 30, 2005 — -- A San Diego mother is suing cereal companies, saying "misleading" marketing on "low-sugar" cereals mistakenly led her to believe she was giving her kids healthier breakfasts.
"It's deceiving," Jennifer Hardee said in an interview today on ABC News' "Good Morning America." "Parents think they're buying something healthier for their children, [only] to find out that they're not."
The low-sugar versions of Kellogg's Frosted Flakes and Froot Loops, General Mills' Cocoa Puffs and Trix, and Post's Fruity Pebbles, have the same amount of calories, carbohydrates, fat, fiber and other nutrients as the regular versions of the cereals, according to a recent report by The Associated Press.
Hardee, who has two young daughters who eat breakfast cereal, is suing Kraft Foods Co., General Mills Cereals and Kellogg USA Inc., claiming the companies misrepresent their reduced-sugar products as healthier alternatives.
"What they're doing with their low-sugar cereals is reducing their sugar content, but increasing the refined carbohydrates," Hardee's lawyer, Harold Hewell, told ABC News affiliate KGTV in San Diego. "The body treats refined carbohydrates the same as sugar so there is no real net nutritional benefit."
Hewell told "Good Morning America" the companies should refund consumers who were fooled.
But at least one of the cereal companies has pointed out that all cereals are labeled with nutritional information. And in statements, all three companies defended their products.
"The product is exactly what it is," the General Mills statement said. "It's very clearly labeled. Consumers were interested in a low sugar option. … We gave them a choice."
Added Kellogg's: "These products demonstrate Kellogg's ongoing commitment to provide consumers with a range of offerings that meet their taste and nutritional preferences."
Kraft Foods said: "We are looking to see if there are ways to improve the product's nutritional profile in the future. It's a process that takes time."
But Hardee told "Good Morning America" she thought the nutritional profiles of the cereals already offered advantages for her daughters.
"I had very seldom purchased the regular cereal for them," Hardee said. "When I saw the reduced sugar, I figured it wouldn't matter if occasionally I gave them that because [I thought] it was healthier."