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Cereal Wars: Kellogg’s Says Rules Have No Raison d’Etre

August 22, 1991

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Kellogg’s is raising cane over government regulations that are keeping raisin bran off the breakfast tables of poor women and children.

The federal Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children doesn’t allow program participants to use vouchers to buy raisin bran, saying the cereal is too sugary.

About $200 million worth of cereal is bought each year with WIC vouchers. Kellogg’s is annoyed because Cheerios, made by arch-rival General Mills, is among the approved cereals.

Kellogg’s also points out that bran flakes are approved cereal under WIC and local WIC counselors tell clients to eat fruit, including raisins.

″It’s so loony,″ said Kellogg’s spokesman George Franklin.

The Battle Creek, Mich., cereal maker has spent the last 14 years trying to convince the government that all raisin bran - not just its brand - is as nutritious as Cheerios.

The key to being included on the WIC list is to have no less than 45 percent the daily minimum requirement of iron and no more than 6 grams of sugar. The government says raisin bran has too much sugar.

But Kellogg’s contends raisin bran has more iron than Cheerios and is cheaper. It also points to the health benefits of fruit, something Cheerios lacks.

Besides, says Kellogg’s, the sugar in raisin bran is largely the natural sugar fromraisins.

Phil Shanholtzer, spokesman for the WIC program, said pregnant women, nursing mothers and their infants are prescribed certain foods to meet particular individual nutritional deficiencies so that health problems stemming from a poor diet at the start of life can be avoided.

The program sets a particular sugar level per ounce of food.

″The problem with raisin bran is that when you add the sugar in the bran flakes and the sugar in the raisins, it pushes it up really high,″ he said.

General Mills isn’t interested in debating the issue.

″The federal regulations for the WIC program speak for themselves,″ said company spokeswoman Kathryn Newton.

Kellogg’s, however, has found champions on Capitol Hill.

″What kind of prunes do we have setting these guidelines?″ asked Rep. Paul Henry, R-Mich.

The rules that keep raisin bran off the list are ″regulatory constipation,″ Henry said, suggesting the government say ″cheerio″ to regulations that keep raisin bran off the list of WIC foods.

Democratic Sens. Carl Levin and Donald Riegle, both from Kellogg’s home state of Michigan, are equally perturbed.

Levin noted that the Agriculture Department is reviewing the foods on the WIC list and is to report to Congress by next June.

″I am concerned that the fruit-in-cereal issue may not be resolved in a timely manner unless Congress directs the USDA to do so,″ Levin said.

Raisin bran has 100 percent of the minimum daily requirement of iron, while Cheerios has 45 percent. It has 12 grams of sugar per ounce compared with 1 gram per ounce for Cheerios, but Kellogg’s Franklin said 7 grams are from the raisins and shouldn’t count.

Shanholtzer said Cheerios is used widely because of its protein content. Raisin bran has 3 grams of protein per ounce, while Cheerios has 4 grams.

About 4.7 million women and children are served by WIC.

″It’s a market General Mills has been glad to have and Kellogg’s would probably like to have, too,″ Shanholtzer said.

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