That “natural” cereal comes with unwelcome extras

Kashi cereals, like many major brands, have switched from organic to GMO ingredients

Business is business and corporations are in it for the big bucks. Creating healthy food products is a popular idea but weighed against high profits and cost margins, consumer seem to be on the short end of the stick.

Such is the case with a large number of our favorite breakfast cereals – and that includes those old faithfuls that many of us have counted on to be organic for years.

This week, the Cornucopia Institute, a non-profit watchdog organization that looks out for the interests of small scale family farms, released a report  accusing Kellogg’s, PepsiCo and Whole Foods of abusive marketing practices, saying the companies deceptively label cereals as natural even though the foods contain “toxic agrichemicals” and genetically modified organisms (GMO’s).

The report – Cereal Crimes: How “Natural” Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label (pdf) -says no federal agency or certification group has determined what “natural” is and that agribusiness is trying to create the “illusion of equivalence” between the natural and organic labels to intentionally mislead consumers.

Natural versus organics

A 2010 poll by the Hartman Group showed that a majority of respondents mistakenly said the term “natural” implied “absence of pesticides,”“absence of herbicides,” and “absence of genetically modified foods.” In surveys by the Shelton Group and Context Marketing, consumers repeatedly said they valued the term “natural” over that of “organic.”

The non-profit group says “natural” products commonly use organophosphate pesticides, which it says have been proven harmful to humans. It also reveals that some companies that have built a reputation and customer following based on their organic brands have switched to non-organic ingredients and now call themselves “natural” instead.

The report says further that “natural” cereals from brands that include Kashi (Kellogg’s), Mother’s (PepsiCo), Nutritious Living, Barbara’s Bakery (Weetabix), and 365 (Whole Foods Market) contain at least 28 percent genetically modified ingredients. Cornucopia said many of these companies present their products as “non-GMO.”

The organization publishes a scorecard about breakfast cereals and granolas to help shoppers make informed grocery shopping choices.

Now Barbara’s cereals are “natural” – but are they really?

Visit a local supermarket today and take a look at the “natural foods” cereal aisle.If you removed all the cereals of the above-mentioned brands, there would be precious little left on the shelves.

If you’ve been eating “organic” cereal by the same company for years, why would you ever think to check the packaging to see if it’s still organic? But with all the corporate mergers and food manufacturers selling off brands to one another, it’s definitely important for customers to pay a bit more attention to the labels.

If ever there was a case for labeling of GMO foods so that consumers can be aware of what they are buying, this is it.

Isn’t it time to have Congress pass the mandatory food labeling bill? You don’t even have to open your garage and go anywhere on this one. Speak up. You know the drill – phone, fax, email, sign the petition. Speak up and be heard. Your voice counts.

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2 Responses

  1. Is anybody really surprised by this? Like you said in the article, companies are in it for the money, period. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Interesting and thought provoking. Not surprising though.

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