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August 26, 2013

Product Dilution: Cheerios Decreases Vitamin Content

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:02 am

In a move rarely ever done, General Mills actually reduced the quantity and number of vitamins (and therefore the nutritional value) of one of its cereals — MultiGrain Cheerios.


MultiGrain Cheerios

The nutrition label on the left shows that one serving provides 100% of the daily requirement of nine vitamins and minerals. The one on the right shows that these were reduced to only 25% of the daily requirement in most cases, and two were actually eliminated completely from the product.

We asked the company why they reduced the vitamin content.

“The change in vitamin levels brought MultiGrain Cheerios in line with the Cheerios family of cereals. MultiGrain Cheerios now delivers an excellent source of 8 vitamins and minerals for our all-family consumer base.” — General Mills spokesman.

As consumers, we are used to having to check the price of a product to see if it has changed. Readers of Mouse Print* have learned that you also have to check the net weight of a product to see if it has been downsized. And, who would have believed it, but now we have to check the nutrition label to see if we are getting fewer vitamins.

We are nicknaming this phenomenon of a product being reforumulated and watered down as “product dilution.” Another example of product dilution was when many flavors of Breyers ice cream had the amount of milkfat reduced to below 10% requiring it to be renamed “frozen dairy dessert.”

If you spot a product that has been diluted, please email details to edgar (at symbol) mouseprint.org .

Thanks to Nancy W. for discovering the Cheerios product dilution, which the company says actually occurred in 2011.

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  1. While they reduced the content of many vitamins and minerals, and eliminated two entirely, I find it interesting that they increased the amount of potassium greatly. I would love to see a side by side of the list of ingredients from old to new. I’ll bet that changed in other ways as well.

    Comment by Bob — August 26, 2013 @ 6:20 am
  2. This is actually a positive move for consumers. In an effort to appear more nutritious, a lot of highly processed foods have been heavily enriched to provide 100%+ RDA of many vitamins and minerals. The problem with this is that when you multiply that across all the servings of all the foods that most people eat in a day, this enrichment to 100% of adult RDA/serving can lead to dangerous levels of some vitamins, particularly for children.

    Comment by cmadler — August 26, 2013 @ 6:27 am
  3. Their answer to the question is kinda funny. It tows the line between a non-answer and an answer. I actually have a follow-up question. Why was multi-grain Cheerios being enriched with more vitamins and minerals than the other Cheerios products in the first place?

    To be honest, a lot of processed foods are more enriched than they need to be. I guess history has proven it not to be that harmful, but do people really need to get ALL of their micronutrients in one serving of cereal. Seems like that could be spread out over a couple more servings. I doubt the body would even absorb it all in one meal (maybe that’s why they put so much in there).

    Either General Mills is implementing another strategy to save a few pennies per unit or they think the enrichment process was too much. A mix of both?

    Comment by Wayne R — August 26, 2013 @ 9:02 am
  4. Cmadler makes a good point. I don’t think it’s up to cereal manufacturers to enhance their products with enriched additives at all. Keep it all natural and let the consumer get their RDA through the course of their daily intake of other foods. If I wish to take a “One a Day” vitamin, it shouldn’t be in my box of cereal.

    Comment by Frankie — August 26, 2013 @ 9:39 am
  5. Bob, Potassium was increased but Sodium was decreased, sort of a wash.

    Comment by James — August 26, 2013 @ 9:47 am
  6. There is actually a mistake in their new label. While there is no saturated fat in Cheerios before or after, the old label used to show 3% daily intake of saturated fat when using 1/2 cup of skim milk but the new label shows 0% daily intake using skim milk on the new label. Nothing changed about the milk.

    Was this just a misprint? Or another intentional misprint?

    Comment by James — August 26, 2013 @ 9:49 am
  7. GM’s response was the usual “say nothing” passive-aggressive tripe we hear all too often. Reminds me of recent email replies from my Congressman and Senators – just a formatted reply.

    Comment by Marty — August 26, 2013 @ 10:31 am
  8. The Skim Milk numbers on the new box must be wrong…

    So how much longer before Multi Grain cheerios has less than 10% per serving for all vitamins???

    Comment by Richard Ginn — August 26, 2013 @ 12:13 pm
  9. James, potassium and sodium should be in at least a 2-1 ratio for optimum health. In the typical western diet, there is way too much sodium and not nearly enough potassium. The old ratio in Multi Grain Cherrios was exactly the opposite of what it should be. The new formula is at least moving in the right direction. Although I suspect this was not an intentional change by General Mills, but just the result of a supplement formula and ingredient mixture adjustment done to increase profits.

    Comment by Bob — August 30, 2013 @ 5:29 am
  10. What surprises me is that, if they did this with good intentions, they didn’t advertise it in any way. “Multigrain Cheerios: now an even healthier choice!” or something like that.
    Since there was no marketing spin, I’m led to believe that they did it for selfish reasons (like to save money for themselves and not pass that along to the consumer.)

    Comment by RobS — September 2, 2013 @ 3:06 pm

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