General Mills is looking ahead to talks with US regulators after being accused of using “unauthorised health claims” on a Cheerios cereal product.

The US food giant was served with a  letter form the US Food and Drug Administration that criticised the company for selling “misbranded food” and for the misuse of claims that Cheerios Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal could lower cholesterol.

In a letter to General Mills chairman and CEO Ken Powell, the FDA claimed it had found “serious violations” of labelling laws on the product.

The FDA insisted that due to the use of claims including, ‘you can lower your cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks’, the cereal was recognised as a “drug” under federal food laws.

“Based on claims made on your product’s label, we have determined that your Cheerios® Toasted Whole Grain Oat Cereal is promoted for conditions that cause it to be a drug because the product is intended for use in the prevention, mitigation, and treatment of disease,” the FDA letter stated.

The FDA has given General Mills 15 days to respond and demonstrate it has “corrected the violations”.

In a separate statement issued yesterday (12 May), General Mills insisted the science behind the health claims was “not in question”.

“Cheerios’ soluble fibre heart health claim has been FDA-approved for 12 years, and Cheerios’ ‘lower your cholesterol 4% in 6 weeks’ message has been featured on the box for more than two years,” General Mills said.

“The scientific body of evidence supporting the heart health claim was the basis for FDA’s approval of the heart health claim, and the clinical study supporting Cheerios’ cholesterol-lowering benefit is very strong.

“The FDA is interested in how the Cheerios cholesterol-lowering information is presented on the Cheerios package and website. We look forward to discussing this with FDA and to reaching a resolution.”