Health Alert! Kashi Cereal Stirs Anger

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Date: Fri, 25 May 2012 12:40:32 -0400
Subject: Health Alert! Kashi Cereal Stirs Anger

University of Common Sense




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Kashi Cereal Stirs Anger – Exposed by Small Rhode Island Grocer

By Dr. Mercola


A simple sign on a grocery store shelf has gone viral, causing a storm of outrage among consumers who feel they’ve been misled by cereal maker Kellogg’s claims about its Kashi cereals. A Rhode Island grocer posted a note on the shelf where Kashi was supposed to be, saying he’d learned it wasn’t 100 percent natural after all, and therefore wasn’t carrying it anymore.


It turns out the soy in Kashi cereals comes from genetically modified Roundup-ready soybeans, which have a gene inserted in them that allows the crop to withstand otherwise lethal doses of the weed killer.

USA Today reported that consumers felt duped into believing that Kashi was all-natural when it’s not. Their complaints were initially brushed off by Kashi general Manager David DeSouza, who told USA Today that since the FDA doesn’t regulate the term “natural,” the cereal maker has done nothing wrong by defining “natural” as minimally-processed with no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or sweeteners.

Were You Duped by Kashi’s Wholesome Brand Identity?

People generally tend to believe that the word “natural” refers to foods grown “in a natural way,” which really amounts to organic farming methods, or close to it; without harsh chemicals, and most definitely not something that has been genetically engineered. Unfortunately, that’s not what the “natural” label represents at all. In fact, the “natural” label is unregulated, and companies can define it as they please.


Most food manufacturers are well aware of this general misperception of what the label means, and frequently misuse it to lure health conscious consumers into spending more. This is known as “green-washing” and it certainly applies in this case. Adding insult to injury, the company appears to have made a poor attempt to save face by further misleading consumers about the accuracy of the information that led the Rhode Island grocer to not carry the Kashi brand anymore.


The Cornucopia Institute released a report, Cereal Crimes, back in November of last year, which details the presence of genetically engineered grains in a number of leading “natural” cereal brands, including Kellogg’s Kashi brand. Shockingly, many of the products tested were found to contain high amounts of genetically engineered grains. Some, including Kashi, containing 100 percent genetically engineered grains!

The report also mentions a class action lawsuit filed against Kellogg/Kashi on August 31, 2011, “for allegedly misleading consumers with its “natural” claims. One Kashi® product in particular, GoLean® Shakes, is composed almost entirely of synthetic and unnaturally processed ingredients, according to the plaintiff.”

The report contrasts these findings with tests of certified organic cereal products, which by law are not allowed to contain any genetically engineered ingredients or synthetic pesticides. While some were found to be mildly contaminated with genetically engineered ingredients, overall, the report highlights the fact that the ONLY way to ensure you’re not buying a genetically engineered product is to buy a product bearing the USDA 100% Organic label.

When Greenwashing Attempts Finally Backfire

Once the grocer’s sign went viral and angry consumers began overloading the Kashi telephone lines, the company switched to a recorded message stating they were temporarily unable to accept calls. Then, according to an April 26 report by Cornucopia Institute:

“When the company again began accepting calls, a Kashi consumer affairs employee, Rick Duran, told a Cornucopia staff member that “no actual testing” of their cereal products had been performed. This mimicked the analysis also offered in a response by the company in an online video posted that same afternoon on the Kashi Facebook page. The video spokesperson called Cornucopia’s information “scientifically inaccurate and misleading because it was not based on actual testing of Kashi products.”

“This characterization of our work by Kashi is blatantly false,” said Will Fantle, Cornucopia’s Research Director. “We purchased a readily available box of Kashi’s GoLean® cereal from a Whole Foods store. We then sent a sample to an accredited national lab for testing, finding that the soy in the natural cereal was 100% GMO.”

The Kashi video also suggested, disingenuously, that any genetically engineered contamination in their food was from incidental sources rather than crops intentionally grown from GMO seed. While acknowledging that over 80% of the soybeans grown in North America are GMO, they explain that, “practices in agricultural storage, handling, and shipping, have lead to an environment where GMOs are not sufficiently controlled.”

“This is classic public relations spin and crisis communications work, where corporations use misinformation to try to cover their tracks,” said Rebekah Wilce, of the Center for Media and Democracy/PRWatch, which helps expose corporate PR tactics…”

Three days later, the USA Today reported:

“… Kellogg got itself into trouble by “not being entirely transparent,” says Roger Nyhus, president of Nyhus Communications in Seattle. He sees a trend among some companies “of fudging language to allay consumer concerns and jump on the green bandwagon, and I think it’s starting to backfire.”  … Kashi’s DeSouza says that by 2015, all new Kashi products will “contain at least 70 percent USDA organic certified ingredients.”

So, in a matter of days, Kashi ended up backpedaling as their initial attempt to discredit the Cornucopia Institute’s test results backfired, and now the company has agreed to ensure their products will, within the next three years, contain at least 70 percent certified organic ingredients. While this is probably not going to be enough for most health conscious consumers, Kashi’s pledge is at least a good demonstration of the power of consumer education, and that consumers ultimately have the power to influence even the largest of food companies. After all, they can only sell what you’re willing to buy!

“Natural” Label is Frequently Misused to Lure Health Conscious Consumers

The misuse of the term “natural” by companies who simply pay lip service to sustainability and the organic movement undermines companies that are truly sincere in their efforts to bring you eco-friendly, unadulterated, safe foods.

And companies like Kashi cannot rightfully claim ignorance about the impact the word “natural” has—marketing firm polls have shown that more people respond favorably to the “all-natural” label than the organic label! It’s a powerful word that conjures up wholesomeness in most people’s minds. Marketing terms such as “natural” are certainly not chosen willy-nilly. No, they’re selected based on what works and what sells. As illustrated by this market research summary by The Hartman Group:

“Consumer understanding and shopping behavior of organic and natural foods and beverages continues to change and evolve. Today’s consumers are confused, yet continue to be engaged by the vast array of products, messages, symbols and labels they encounter when making decisions about what to eat or drink and where they shop.

This study will identify the hierarchy among these attributes and point out differences by product category as well as deeper distinctions between “organic” and “natural” themselves. It will enable companies to go beyond the clutter of product call-outs to have a singular focus on what matters most to consumers thereby increasing brand loyalty and likelihood of purchase”

According to a 2010 Hartman Group poll, more than 60 percent of consumers erroneously believe that the “natural” label implies or suggests the absence of genetically engineered ingredients, so Kashi’s statement that there’s nothing wrong with using genetically engineered ingredients in their “natural” products is rather weak. Food companies know this misconception exists, and they actively prey on consumers’ assumptions. Fortunately, the Cornucopia Institute’s report has awakened many to this sad truth. As one now-former Kashi consumer stated on the company’s Facebook page:

 “Yours is the only brand cereal I have bought for years. Not anymore! You are despicable. Everything you supposedly stand for is a lie.”

The Difference Between Natural and Organic

It’s important to understand that the “natural” label is not regulated and does not provide a guarantee of being free of genetically engineered ingredients or synthetic pesticides and additives. Currently, the ONLY label that can protect you against genetically engineered ingredients and other unsavory additives is the USDA 100% Organic label.

The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) took effect October 21, 2002, and regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced. The labeling requirements of the NOP apply to raw, fresh products and processed products that contain organic agricultural ingredients.


In order to qualify as organic, a product must be grown and processed using organic farming methods that recycle resources and promote biodiversity.

Crops must be grown without synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes, petroleum-based fertilizers, or sewage sludge-based fertilizers. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors and cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones.

  • Products labeled “USDA 100% organic” must contain only organically produced materials
  • Products labeled simply “USDA organic” must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients, whereas
  • The label “made with organic ingredients” can contain anywhere between 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients

Organic products cannot be irradiated, are not allowed to contain preservatives or flavor enhancing chemicals, nor can they contain traces of heavy metals or other contaminants in excess of tolerances set by the FDA. Additionally, the pesticide residue level cannot be higher than 5 percent of the maximum EPA pesticide tolerance. For the complete National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances under the USDA organic label, see this link. To learn more about organic foods and the findings detailed in the Cereal Crimes report, please listen to my interview with Mark Kastel of the Cornucopia Institute.

Click here to watch video.

Stop Monsanto and Move the Organic Revolution Forward

For 13 years, OCA has been “growing the revolution” fighting against genetically engineered foods, preserving strict organic standards, expanding the organic market, and spreading the good news that organic agriculture can sustainably feed the world while reversing global warming. The time is right to step up our efforts and move the Organic Revolution forward, but OCA needs your financial support to do so.

Please donate





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