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Critics Accuse Kellogg of Cashing in on Flu Season

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
The H1N1 (swine) flu might not just be harmful to young children or people suffering from chronic illnesses. Companies — or at least those accused of capitalizing on fears of the pandemic flu — might also suffer from bouts of shivers and fatigue during the final quarter of the year.

The Kellogg Company finds itself as one of those businesses. USA Today reported Monday that critics accuse the company of attempting to increase sales of its cereals during flu season by promoting them as a way to boost children's immune systems.

Compared to other claims made on cereal boxes, "this one belongs in the hall of fame," the director of Yale University's Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity told the newspaper.

"By their logic, you can spray vitamins on a pile of leaves, and it will boost immunity," Kelly Brownell told the newspaper. Special Report: H1N1

Government officials are also skeptical of Kellogg's strategy, which includes decorating some of their cereal boxes with the words "Now helps support your child's immunity" with "immunity" in big, bold letters screaming across the box. The boxes also promote how the cereals now include 25 percent of the daily recommended value for vitamins A, B, C and E. San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent letters to Kellogg and the Food and Drug Administration asking the company to back up its claim.

"I am concerned the prominent use of the immunity claims to advertise a sugar-laden chocolate cereal like Cocoa Krispies may mislead and deceive parents of young children," Herrera told the newspaper.

Federal regulators earlier told Kellogg they were concerned about the "Smart Choices" labels used to decorate its food, and the company voluntarily removed the labels. A spokeswoman told the newspaper that the immunity graphics on the boxes weren't meant "to capitalize on the current H1N1 flu situation."