Tag Archives: Labeling

About Organic labels…

As I drive into work, I pass several billboards, each extolling the virtues of whatever mediocre product that happens to be plastered to the board. Normally I think of these ads as visual white noise, rarely getting my attention. And if they do, I rarely think of them past the time it takes for my Mini to drive on by.

But this morning changed there was a change in my routine a bit, as I noticed a sign selling Organic Beer (warning: Flash load).

Upon reading that, my initial thought was that I didn’t realize that there was a market demand for organic beer. My second thought was that I hadn’t realized how pervasive the label “organic” had become. I knew it had become the new marketing tool for food producers, but it still made some sort of sense to see it on boxes of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies or bottles Heinz Ketchup. But beer? Do we need to see it on beer?

I’m not so crass as to believe that the folks a Henry Weinhard’s don’t have their heart in the right place. For all I know, they’re fully committed to creating a sustainable product that doesn’t use pesticides and is earth friendly and all of the other buzz phrases that are typically associated with the “organic” term. But I wonder if putting it on as many products as possible dilutes the core principles of the organic movement. Not in the same way that industrial organic has diluted the term, but in a way that makes the word become visual white noise.

As way of a thought experiment, let me list a handful of products:

  • Organic Dog Food
  • Organic Lipstick
  • Organic tomatoes
  • Organic Vodka
  • Organic Apples
  • Organic Frozen Pizza
  • Organic Shampoo
  • Organic Ice Cream

Some of you may think that there’s nothing wrong with any of these products, and you would probably be right. But I’m guessing there’s a handful of you who read the list and said “What the heck?? Organic Lipstick and Organic Vodka?” My question is to those of you who fit the latter category:

Does seeing the “Organic” label placed on every product diminish its value on items where it means something? Does seeing the “Organic” label on Vodka make the organic label on tomatoes seem less important?

In my opinion, it does. The saturation of the organic label is starting to make me tune the word out when I view it on labels.

I don’t believe this to be the fault of food manufacturers, who mostly have the right idea. I think it’s simply a result of an overexposure to the word, so much so that it loses it’s meaning.

7up Drops ‘All-Natural’ label as well

Story found here.

And for the record, having both Kraft and Cadbury-Schweppes release notices about how they are both dropping the ‘All-Natural’ from their High-Fructose Corn Syrup claim within days of one another is what is called a “notable coincidence”. Methinks a specific something was said at a specific somewhere that made both of them rethink their “HFCS is natural” position.

But then again, I am prone to conspiracy thinking from time to time.

Kraft does something right!!! HFCS and the “All-Natural” label

My heart – It’s all a flutter!

My beliefs in corporate responsibility have been challenged!

My faith in Kraft has been restored!

Well, not really. I’ve never had faith in Kraft. But they have done a good thing recently which should be addressed.

Some of you out there may have heard about the woman from Florida who recently filed suit against Kraft over their Capri Sun product. Her contention was that Capri Sun’s use of “All Natural” on their label was deceptive and misleading, due in large part to the vast amount of man-made high fructose corn syrup used in making the children’s drink.

Today, Kraft responded to the news and subsequent bad publicity by announcing that within two weeks time, they will start producing labels without “All Natural” on the package. Of course they also say that this has been in the works for the past year, and that this announcement is not a direct response to the lawsuit. This seems logical to me, but a tad coincidental.

At any rate, Kraft is doing the correct thing here. High fructose corn syrup is a man-made product. It’s use in a product seems to run counter to the “All Natural” ideal.

Isn’t that right 7up?

tags technorati : Kraft High Fructose Corn Syrup

Labels and Standards

What I find so bleesedly amusing about this recent article in the NY Times, is that you have Big Food complaining about standards that they had no hand in developing.

A brief overview for those not inclined to click on the link – Hannaford Brothers, a grocery store chain in New England, developed a system called Guiding Stars that rated the nutritional value of nearly all the food and drinks at its stores from zero to three stars. Out of all of the products they sell, only 23% received any stars at all. Left out of the star ratings included such notable products as, well nearly everything sold nuder the brand names of Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice. Also absent were most breakfast cereals that had been touting their “Heart Smart” and “Low-Sodium” labels that had been generously applied to their nutrional labels.

My favorite quote from the piece is thus:

“We don’t like the idea that there are good and bad foods out there, and these sort of arbitrary rating systems,ˮ said John Faulkner, director of brand communication at the Campbell Soup Company. The Healthy Request line of soup, he said, was “aligned with the government definition of what healthy is.ˮ

What Mr. Faulkner doesn’t want you to know is that there are actually three definitions the FDA uses to determine what is “healthy”.

  1. There’s the definition that defines the relationship between a food and it’s ability in reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition. For example: Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.
  2. There’s the definition that defines a relationship between the nutritional content of food or food product when compared against similar products, or they describe the level of a nutrient or dietary substance in the product.Think “Diet Coke” or “Lean Cuisine”, and you’ll have a good idea on what they’re getting at.
  3. Finally, there’s the definition of Healthy that describe the role of a nutrient ingredient and how it affects normal structure or function of the human body. ‘Calcium builds strong bones’ ‘fiber maintains bowel regularity’ are both fine examples of this definition.

The fact that there is several interpretations of ‘healthy’ is what allows companies such as Campbells Soup and ConAgra to muddy the waters of just how healthy their products are. A statement such as ‘Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes are part of a balanced breakfast’ is a perfect example of this. What Kellogg’s is essentially saying is that Frosted Flakes is part of a healthy diet…as long as you eat other items that supply nutrients that Tony the Tiger missed and, oh yeah, don’t go eating eighteen bowls of the stuff per day, ’cause that’d be really bad. Replace Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and you’ll see how they get to say they are ‘healthy’

The next quote from the article made me laugh:

a spokeswoman for ConAgra Foods, Stephanie Childs, said that her company would like to know how Hannaford concluded that many items in its Healthy Choice line did not merit any stars.

“This is surprising to us,ˮ Ms. Childs said. Healthy Choice, which offers a range of items from frozen meals to pasta sauces and deli meats, “has to use F.D.A.’s very stringent requirements for what is healthy.ˮ

Again, which definition of ‘healthy’ is Ms. Child’s talking about? Is she claiming that Healthy Choice Mesquite Grill Chicken helps maintains cell integrity in a consumer’s body, or that their Salsibury Steak helps prevent the gout? Or is she saying that having one serving of their product is reasonable if they don’t go overboard?

What it sounds like Hannaford Brothers has done with their rating system is to give more ‘stars’ to foods that meet the first and third definitions of healthy mentioned above, while giving no stars for the second definition. In essence, what they’re saying is that food companies don’t get a bonus credit for leaving out an excess of salt, sugar or fat, because it’s something they should be doing anyway. Or to put it another way, just because you choose to refrain from shooting a gun doesn’t mean you’re a pacifist.

Technorati Tags: Food Politics, Healthy, Labels

Meat Labels Hope to Lure the Sensitive Carnivore

I know that Whole Foods gets a fair amount of criticism (sometimes rightly so) but can anyone point me to any other supermarket chain that does things like this:

Whole Foods Market is preparing to roll out a line of meat that will carry labels saying animal compassionate, indicating the animals were raised in a humane manner until they were slaughtered.

The grocery chains decision to use the new labels comes as a growing number of retailers are making similar animal-welfare claims on meat and egg packaging, including free farmed, certified humane, cage free and free range.

It’s a solution that allows the animal right folks to educate the masses, yet does so without banning anything.

Let’s hope that these labels actually have some weight to them, unlike the nearly meaningless phrase “Free Range Chickens” found on your egg carton.

Thanks Jack!

Technorati Tags: Whole Foods, Animal Welfare

Coke’s Caloric Sophistry

What happens when you get two of the world’s largest food corporations, both with histories of unethical behavior (Coca-Cola and Nestlé) working together? A drink that burns calories.

Enviga, which will be on sale in the US next month, will be available in Britain next year.

The makers claim that a combination of extracts from green tea and caffeine speeds up the drinker’s metabolic rate, which helps the body to burn calories.

I think it’s safe to say that the energy-drink industry is truly getting out of hand. Their claims of drinking 3 bottles of Enviga will burn an average of 106 calories is cynical in their marketing. As Andrew Prentice, professor of international nutrition at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, mentioned in the article “The implicit claim to the consumer is that [Enviga] will make them lose weight.”

Coke denies that this is their motivation, speaking through their chief Scientist Rhoma Applebaum,”We want to make clear that this is not a magic bullet to lose weight”.

If one were to believe Coke’s position, then answer the following question – Do you think that they are thrilled or abhorred at the press that their drink is getting?

As Calorielab pointed out – “…you could save the four bucks a day ($1,460 a year) that would cost and go for a walk instead.”

Technorati Tags: Coca-Cola, Enviga

Horizon Organic is Not Organic

But of course we’ve known that for some time now, right?

Finally, some folks in the food industry are starting to take notice and take action.

PCC Natural Markets will stop carrying milk products from the country’s largest organic dairy company, Horizon Organic, next month because it doubts that the products meet organic standards.

PCC’s biggest concern is that some cows are not receiving enough pasture time, “but there are a lot of other things that have been alleged that need to be investigated officially,” said Goldie Caughlan, PCC’s nutrition-education manager and a former member of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s organic standards board.

PCC is a Food Co-op here in the Seattle area. Their sales method is more akin to that of a supermarket. As far as reputations go, theirs is very well-respected. So when they say “Horizon isn’t what we want”, others in the industry will likely take notice.

Good for them, I say. Playing fast and loose with Organic Standards goes against the initial ideals that the organic movement was founded upon. To call out Horizon Dairy on their bullshit is exactly what is needed.

It’s also the one of the first shots across the bow of the industrial organic companies from those who seek to hold to the movements initial ideals, at least in the financial sense. Yes, some people have talked a good game, but the only way to hold industrial organic accountable is in the one place where it counts — their bottom line.

However, I would not be surprised if Horizon and their associated dairies retaliated in some way, probably legal. There’s going to be a battle for the soul of the Organic Movement. And I think this was only the first out of many future skirmishes.

tags technorati : Organic PCC Horizon Dairy Milk Organic Milk