Food News

Warning: "Natural" Breakfast Cereal May Be Hazardous To Your Health

​​​Kashi's GoLean cereal (made by Kellogg's) contains 100 percent genetically engineered soybeans. Whole Foods Market's 365 Corn Flakes is made from 57 percent GMO corn; in Barbara's Bakery's Puffins the GMO corn content is 55 percent.

USDA testing has found residues of organophosphate pesticides like chlorpyrifos and malathion on corn, soy, wheat flour, and oats -- all common ingredients in non-organic breakfast cereals (in the case of wheat flour, residues were found in more than 60 percent of the samples). Recent studies have linked organophosphate exposure to a wide range of developmental and behavioral disorders in children.

These are a few of the findings of a report released yesterday by the Cornucopia Institute, an organic industry watchdog group from Cornucopia, Wisconsin. The report, entitled Cereal Crimes: How "Natural" Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label -- A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Aisle, concludes that some of the nation's major food manufacturers are using deceptive marketing practices to sell us "natural" breakfast cereals that are genetically engineered and/or contaminated with toxic agrichemicals.

The public has always been plagued by confusion between terms like organic and natural, and the giant food industries are only too happy to spend millions in marketing aimed at keeping them confused -- and are even more eager to do so now that the public is willing to pay extra for healthy products.

Unlike the organic label, no government agency or other entity has to certify "natural" claims on processed food packages. Breakfast cereals with the USDA "certified organic" logo need to be produced under strict and verifiable standards -- meaning no use of things like petrochemical-based fertilizers, synthetic toxic pesticides, genetically modified crops, or sewage sludge allowed. On the other hand, a breakfast cereal labeled "natural" can contain ingredients affected by all of the above -- even if its ads read as Mothers Natural cereals do: "You'll be reminded of mother's love and devotion with every bite...someone to trust since 1895."

In other words: "Natural" means nothing.

Perhaps the most flagrant deception takes place when companies that built brand loyalty as organic brands switch to non-organic ingredients and a "natural" labeling instead. In 2008, the Peace Cereal company did just that, going from organic to cheaper, conventional ingredients -- but kept its prices the same. It is still sold in natural food stores.

Not only do consumers and managers of health food stores get tricked: Because of such switches, the Non-GMO Shopping Guide includes products like the aforementioned GMO-heavy 365 Corn Flakes and Barbara's Bakery's Puffins.

This video shows what Cornucopia is talking about:

And finally, here is a hint for consumers: When you see that a "natural" cereal -- like, say, the aforementioned Mother's Natural -- is made by some agribusiness giant -- like, say, PepsiCo -- be very suspicious as to the salubriousness of content.

Follow Short Order on Facebook and Twitter @Short_Order.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Miami New Times' restaurant reviewer for the past decade, and the world's indisputable master of disguise.
Contact: Lee Klein