Does This Kashi Controversy Bother You?

Last week social media picked up on the fact that a grocery store manager in Rhode Island stopped stocking Kashi cereals because he felt like their claims of being natural were false and misleading.

He found out that Kashi cereals, which is owned by the huge conglomerate Kellogg, was using genetically modified soybeans in their “natural” cereals. People started posting about it on Facebook and as you say, the rest is media history.

I did not know much about genetically modified organisms, or GMO’s, until I started working with Attune Foods. I had heard about GMO’s but had not paid a lot of attention to them. Here in a nutshell is the issue as defined by the non-GMO project:

GMOs, or “genetically modified organisms,” are plants or animals created through the gene splicing techniques of biotechnology (also called genetic engineering, or GE). This experimental technology merges DNA from different species, creating unstable combinations of plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding.

The whole GMO issue is very complex and I am certainly not a scientist. My philosophy is to try and eat as natural as possible and I do make use of the lists on the Non-GMO Project website to see what foods likely have GMO’s and which do not. Do I only eat Non-GMO food? No, because in my world that would be incredibly expensive and really hard. But I do the best I can right now.

Kashi has two problems as I see it. I, like many other people, assumed that it was organic and as such did not have GMO’s. I was wrong on both counts. Kashi bills itself as “natural” but does not say “organic.” That’s really my fault in assuming that because the cereal was in the “healthy foods” section of my grocery store that it was an organic product. The USDA does requires that foods labeled as organic be GMO free but the use of the term “natural” on food labels is not regulated. That means that a company can use the term in whatever way they choose.

I feel that Kashi was not upfront and transparent in their labeling, but do understand that the onus really is on the consumer to research which foods they eat and what is in those foods. The thing that makes it disappointing to me is that if I pick up a box of orange cheese crackers or brightly colored Fruit Loops I know they have ingredients in them that I do not need. However, when I looked at the Kashi boxes in my pantry, I assumed something different.

What do you think about this? Should Kashi be criticized like it is being or is it totally the responsibility of the consumer to research what the labels on the packages really mean? Diane

Here is a response from Kashi on the Natural Grocers website that I came across right before I published the article.

 

 

63 thoughts on “Does This Kashi Controversy Bother You?

  1. Amy says:

    I hadn’t heard of this, Diane, so thanks for bringing it up. I, like you, do not make a priority of banning all GMO ingredients – I don’t know all the issues but it seems to me that categorically banning any use of these scientific techniques might be throwing the baby out with the bath water, and potentially discarding a technology, that, while it should certainly be used with great caution, could prove very important as our planet struggles to provide food for all the humans it supports.

    The other issue, about Kashi being dishonest or misleading by labeling its products “natural” just goes to show again how careful we as consumers need to be, in order to make good decisions based on our own values and priorities. We certainly cannot trust large corporations to have our best interests at heart – at the end of the day, their main goal is to turn a profit, and we must never forget that!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      It is concerning to me as well. I learned throughout my journey to discount label claims like “No Trans Fats! or More Whole Grains” until I read the labels, but never really thought about what the word “natural” meant on the boxes. Now I know not to believe that 100 percent either!

    • caryesings says:

      I too really want to know more about GMO. Initially to me it seemed a good idea if they could create food plants that would be resistant to insects or disease so less chemicals applied to grow. But then I read that GMO being used to produce soybeans resistant to Round-Up, for example so farmers can use MORE chemicals on the fields without damaging the soybean plant. NOT the direction I was hoping for when I first heard about this technology.

      On the other hand, I’m not sure I have the story straight yet. The good news/bad news about internet access to information. Anyone with any agenda can publish “facts” and takes some time to track down good info.

  2. Sharon says:

    Once of my favorite bloggers, Cammy at Tippy Toe Diet, wrote a phrase in my blog that has stuck with me in an amazing way almost becoming a mantra……she said, “the fork is always in MY hand!” Yes, I’d love to blame the food industry and yes, I believe there is entirely too much covering up, duplicity, manipulation of words or whatever else you want to call it within that industry. But, “the fork is always in MY hand!”

    Symbolically speaking, the phrase applies to all of life, not just our eating habits. Until we stop blaming everything and everybody for our problems, there is no possibility of change.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      True, but there is an education factor as well as a trust factor in play here as well. Although I do hold the fork (and I love that thought) if I do not know what the terms mean then I may honestly have trouble understanding what I am eating. I see it more than you can imagine. We as bloggers and Internet readers who have an interest in food and weight loss know a lot more about healthy ingredients than many people.

  3. Diandra says:

    I think people are responsible for educating themselves on what they eat and what not, but I also think that putting “natural” on a box containing GMO food (especially when companies know many people have got a problem with that!) is too close to lying. It should not be made next-to-impossible for people to go grocery shopping without a smartphone to look up every ingredient and product, or a 1,000-pages food mannual.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Good point – It all comes down to knowledge, awareness, and transparency. Unfortunately we as consumers are often the ones to suffer when those three concepts are controlled by someone else. I have used my smartphone before to check out products or call companies right in the store to ask a question!

  4. vickie says:

    This has NO impact on me what so ever, because regardless of the organic or not organic, it is still processed. I give Kashi credit for their Go Lean, because at least it has 13 g of protein for the 30 g of carbs (which is better than most other cereals) but it is still processed. I look at all cold cereals as being marketing ploys. Most of the time they are simply the equivalent of a cookie, packaged to look like something else. I look at brands such as WW and Kashi as being focused marketing ploys and do not fall for them.

  5. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    Like you, I had always looked at Kashi as a more healthy option than their competitors. But since I use their products so infrequently, I had not paid much attention when I heard the news. I would like to see truth in labeling for all things. And then we, as consumers, know that we can find the information there if we choose to look for it.

  6. Emergefit says:

    Forgive me, but I think what people don’t know about the food system far far out weights what they do know — myself included. We live in the most complex and misunderstood age in history, and we try and act as though we are masters of that which surrounds us and more knowledgeable than we really are — myself included.

    I have thought much about this in recent years, and my head spins in relentless rumination. The reality is that this is where we’re at — for the moment, it’s the best we can do. It’s nice to see social media attempt to evoke change, but piling on isn’t always the best, or the right course of action. This is just one more area where Americans pile on a notion in haste before all the facts have been played out. We do this in religion, politics, and every other theater more than ever since 9/11.

    As hard or unreasonable to accept as this may seem, GMO foods may turn out to be a good thing in the long run. There is far more to consider here than what we read on Facebook or Twitter, and the largest issue we must face is our absolute lack of knowledge in matters where we feel so damned wise.

    • Norma says:

      Thalidomide seemed like a good idea at the time.

      Just sayin’. The government is firmly in the pocket of Big Food and Big Food exists to turn a profit, not to educate, serve or nourish the public. Drugs, additives, etc. all get rushed to market in the interest of making a buck well before they are proven safe, effective or free of unwanted side effects.

  7. Jody - Fit at 54 says:

    I do think the GMO question is still up in the air on good or bad BUT a company like Kashi – although owned by Kellogg – still the “health” portion of it should have been up front about this. Yes, we have to research ourselves but more likely with a company that doe snot market itself like Kashi does.. I sat bad for them to do this…truth in labeling!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Truth in labeling – I agree Jody. I do not worry so much for people who are “into” health foods but for those people who do not understand or know enough to dig deeper into what the label really means.

  8. KarenJ says:

    If you want to read a good book on where your food comes from, pick up “Food, Inc.” which is the companion book to the documentary I have not yet seen. Since reading the book, I am a lot more aware of things like GMOs, which my husband and I try to avoid, but like other posters have said, is almost impossible due to labeling discrepanies and also cost. I do know the difference between organic and natural, however and try to buy organic whenever possible. It’s a little easier for me now not having kids at home. I do not blame Kashi for their labeling. I think that they, like other producers of processed products follow the labeling laws that exist, and it’s up to consumers to decide whether to eat it or not. I wonder sometimes if my newly discovered gluten sensitivity is related to GMO wheat, which is why after giving up wheat products (including everything Kashi), I dropped 20 pounds.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      KarenJ – You are not the first person to recommend that book – now I must read it! I do not blame Kashi either, but wish there was more requirements for transparency and not so much freedom to paste the “natural” label on foods that aren’t all that natural. Great point about the sugar in cereals, weight loss, etc.

      Nan – I know exactly what you mean about dropping weight when cutting back on the sugar consumption. Funny how that happens! 🙂

  9. Gail says:

    I would appreciate transparency in labeling…GMO foods should be listed as such. Then, as a consumer, I get to make up my own mind.

    • Janis says:

      Until everything is GMO. Then we won’t be able to make up our minds. There will be nothing else to eat.

      • Diane Carbonell says:

        That’s true Janis. It certainly seems as though that is the direction things are moving. It is even hard for backyard gardeners to buy seeds that will propagate the next year unless we order heirloom seeds from a specialty store.

  10. Annie says:

    I don’t think Kashi did anything wrong. There is no label on the box that said it is organic. All the other health descriptions and labels in food packaging are pretty much meaningless.

    People are outrage because they made assumptions based on where food is stock in the grocery aisles. Where food is placed on the shelves are based on the slotting fees they pay. You can read more about slotting fees here:

    http://smallstepstohealth.com/2008/09/supermarket-tricks-slotting-fees-and-our-wallets/

    Where anything is placed in a grocery store is researched and analyzed, all to get us to buy more. It is no accident that most of the food products that are sugared, brightly colored, and advertised towards our kids are placed at their height where they would sit at the shopping cart.

    As for GMO, I don’t even think there is a non GMO papaya around anymore. It wiped out the entire papaya population in Hawaii quickly after it was introduced to the islands. The problem with GMO is that it is hard to control. Once it cross pollinate with the native species, it is out there.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Thanks Annie for the information. I agree that Kashi did nothing wrong or illegal, but in my mind the way their marketers choose to place and market the product is a bit misleading. And then the fact that in my grocery store Kashi is not with the other cereals but rather in the health food area makes it seem like it should be a healthier choice when it really is not.

      I had no idea about the papaya being GMO now. Thank you again!

  11. carolyn says:

    I’m surprised to hear this! I thought Kashi was one of the healthy choices, but I’m trying to choose foods without GMOs. It’s tough to do when the packaging does not have info about GMOs.

  12. Caron says:

    I did not know about this either and it does kind of change the way I see Kashi now. I occasionally purchase one of their frozen entrees and they are quite expensive. I probably will not purchase them now. That’s just me as they say. 🙂

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I don’t think I will buy their products much now, although it does seems as though the company is trying to make some changes according to their statement.

  13. Kristi McMurry says:

    I haven’t seen anything about this until now. I do feel like a lot of the responsibility is on the consumer, but a company that claims to be “passionate about good, all-natural foods” should be a little more up front about something like GMOs. I’m a simple person, so I tend to get overwhelmed when I’m trying to figure out what ingredients are good and what ingredients are bad, so I never would have even looked into it. I will say that I’m pretty disappointed. I usually get Cascadian Farm instead of Kashi anyway, but it’s still disheartening to learn that such a huge producer of “health foods” is being sneaky.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I was disappointed too Kristi. We eat Attune’s Uncle Sam’s cereals and some others, but it is hard to know without research what is in a lot of foods on the shelf. It shouldn’t be so hard.

  14. Wishful Shrinking says:

    With the food plan guidelines set up in my program of recover I have to look at all labels of processed food and sugar cannot be list in the top 5 ingrediance. I have had teas that have triggered me with a hypoglycemic reaction even those the labels have no sugar listed. Natural favors must have sugar in some cases. I think that we as a public serve to be able to make conscious choices about everything that we eat. I am not one to look for GMO before reading this post but look from now on. Thanks!

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      The problem with GMO’s is they are not required to be listed so it can be next to impossible to know for sure whether the ingredients used are GMO’s or not. The non-GMO Project’s website is a good resource. I need to go to my pantry and see which foods (besides my sugar container) has sugar as the top 5 ingredients – I bet I would be surprised.

  15. Lisa says:

    Not to butt into the controversy because it’s not even an issue for me since I don’t buy Kashi anything….BUT….I think it’s outrageous that they can put the label “organic” on a food that is a GMO. That’s not right at all. I don’t eat cereal very often, or much of the processed foods and this is a perfect example of why I don’t want it. Who knows what’s in the food!

    The only way to know something is “organic” is to buy it from a farmer’s market or grow it yourself. If it comes from a box, it’s doubtful that it’s “organic.”

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Even farmer’s markets are not always organic. We live in farm country and I have to ask each vendor whether the food is organic and about 50 percent of the time it is not. Now I still often buy it because at least I know where it is coming from, but that is something I learned from a fellow blogger.

      As far as Kashi goes, they don’t claim organic because under those labeling laws organic foods cannot contain GMO’s, but they do bandy about the term “natural” which seems questionable to me.

  16. Janis says:

    They should be criticized. GMO is attacking the only source of normal food that humans were evolved to eat that is left in the universe. Currently, you can at least avoid eating garbage by avoiding stuff that is packed in neon green boxes with cartoon characters on it, or stuff with labels. If you buy stuff in the meat or produce aisle, your chances of buying hyper-fake processed crap is far less.

    Soon enough, EVERYTHING will be created to have excess sugar and fat in it. There will be absolutely NO WAY AT ALL to eat food that humans were designed to eat. Even the produce section will be a diabetes mill. No thank you. Sure, it’s theoretically possible for GMO food to be healthy for you, and we need “progress” and “science is not the bad guy” and all those other platitudes that mean nothing.

    But in the end, GMO food WILL result in there being absolutely no safe haven from diabetes and clogged arteries aside from having a patch of dirt behind your house and eating only things you pulled out of the ground yourself. And some of us have other jobs or cannot afford backyards.

    Anybody who defends GMO food because “science is good” is being painfully naive, and their kids will suffer for it. Science is science, and if there are billions of dollars to be made by NOT being good, then it will be used for evil.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I had no idea before I started working with Attune Foods about the wide breadth of foods that have GMO’s. In my naivety I thought it was just processed foods but quickly learned that even fruits and vegetables are often genetically modified. It is concerning to me because we just do not yet know what the consequences (if any) will be 20, 30, 40 years down the road. Just because a scientist developed it does not always mean it is good for us.

  17. Mairi Brown says:

    I had a similar problem with Odwalla. I always thought of Odwalla as “healthy” processed food. That was until I ate a Chocolate Walnut Fiber bar and became violently ill less than an hour later. I couldn’t figure it out until I read the ingredients and discovered there was something in it called “Inulin.” I didn’t know what it was so I Googled it and discovered that it was a man-made non-digestible sugar substitute. I admit that I’m overly sensitive to fake sugars but because of the company’s perceived reputation I never bothered to read the ingredients – now I know better.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I’m sorry that happened to you Mairi – I had a similar experience with Vitamin Water. I “knew” it wasn’t really good for me but I liked the taste and drank some. I was so sick after that.

      • Linda Henning says:

        Off subject (Kashi) but tell me more about vitaminwater. I have been drinking vitaminwater Zero on occasion.

      • Diane Carbonell says:

        When I started to drink it I was okay for a few days. Then I started getting stomach pains and gastro issues. The only thing I had changed was the water. I quit drinking it and then everything resolved. I think it was the sweeteners in the Zero. I realized that it was a drink I did not need so I went back to drinking water with a splash of 100% cranberry juice. Have you had any issues?

  18. Jennifer H. says:

    I don’t buy Kashi products anyway, but what effects me is that I need to remain aware of lables and not just the advertising on the front of the box. Natural isn’t always what we think it means.

  19. nan @ lbddiaries says:

    About 6 years ago, hubby and I looked to get sugar out of our diet. The ONLY cereal out there considered healthy with nothing extra in it is oatmeal (best steel-cut). I thought Kashi was until I discovered what liars they are by claiming to be healthy. They lead you to believe one thing but there are sometimes FOUR different types of sugar or sweetener in some of their “healthy” products – brown rice syrup (listed as 3rd ingredient), evaporated cane juice crystals, evaporated cane juice syrup, honey (you can bet it isn’t raw unprocessed).

    As to GMO, GE, GM products, they’ve been around for years. About twenty years ago, the FDA decided to deny consumers the right to know whether their food was genetically altered or not. Guess who spearheaded that? Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lawyer who transferred into the offices of the FDA. Fox guarding the henhouse. A lot of “Natural” products contain 100 percent genetically modified grains including Kashi, GoLean, General Mills Kix and several other brands.

    Some of the complaints about GE (genetically engineered) foods are because it is chemicals that are proven to cause cancer, inferfility, miscarriages, mess up your immune system, and a whole host of other problems. The latest issue is the probability of one of the active ingredients from “Agent Orange” being introduced into the food supply. Why? to kill the weeds that are resistant to other Monsanto weed killer. GModified food is not food.

    California is launching “The Right to Know Gentically Engineered Food Act” desiring to get on the ballot Nov 6th. This Act will require food manufacturers to identify genetically engineered ingredients on the labels of foods sold in California.

    (http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/05/01/monsanto-vs-gmo-labeling.aspx).

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      Thanks Nan for the information. You are smart to point out that sugar isn’t just labeled as “white sugar” on the food labels, but rather lives under several different pseudonyms, making it harder to understand what is in the foods we eat.

  20. Dr. J says:

    Supplying food for the earth’s population requires more than any of us want to know. When we address that, we will be taking large steps to solve our problems.

    • Diane Carbonell says:

      I understand what you are saying but I still think truth and transparency in labeling is important so we as consumers can choose what we do and do not put into our bodies.

  21. Carla says:

    I didn’t know about this issue before now, but I’m glad you brought it up. I think it is pretty horrific what the food industry is doing to our food. And they don’t even have to tell us about a lot of it! We really have to educate ourselves about these things. I try to eat a little packaged foods as possible – that way I can avoid a lot of those unknown ingredients!

  22. LovesCatsinCA says:

    Hi, Diane. My personal feeling is that people should be accountable for their own investigations and what they eat. There is nothing misleading about using a legally undefined term like “natural” like Kashi did. It’s like how various plant-based foods call themselves “a cholesterol free food”–true, but they never HAD it in the first place, or like calling something like a Pepperidge Farm goldfish package that has both whole wheat and regular flour, “contains whole grains.” Marketing.

    I personally would like to see foods that contain GMO ingredients, have to disclose that they do and what percentage. But unless there is actual false and misleading advertising, such as calling something organic that isn’t, I say that people should do their own investigations.

    I like how you admitted that you mentally associated natural with organic, but that the boxes themselves hadn’t been misleading about claiming to be organic or non-GMO. That’s probably the case for a lot of people, but they prefer to vilify Kashi for its marketing practices rather than take responsibility for their own interpretations of the word “natural” without reading the ingredients carefully. So it’s important to educate ourselves–but it’s our responsibility to do so. That’s one of the great things about your blog, that you educate..

    And then there will always be people like that woman who sued the company that makes Cap’n Crunch for not containing “real” crunchberries where the court held that the “reasonable consumer” would know that “Crunchberries” weren’t real berries (or the guy who sued because Froot Loops didn’t contain fruit.) Genuine belief, stupidity or greed?

    I think it’s a great wake up call about marketing hype and for us as consumers to continue to press for GMO ingredient disclosures.

  23. Diane Carbonell says:

    I know what you mean Norma and Janis. It really is up to the consumer but the problem is that many, many consumers do not even know to look. When I teach my weight loss classes, about 75% of them have never really looked at the nutrition label or ingredient list on most foods they buy. They just purchase without thought.

  24. jodi says:

    another good book to read is “animal, vegetable, miracle”. it really opened my eyes to GMOs and the food industry, including the seed industry. i hadn’t noticed all the monsanto companys in the south until after i read that book. it’s very, very, hard to find anything (including seed packets so we can grow our own “organic”) that isn’t GMO. i second the “food inc” recommendation too. so eye opening! and the documentary, “forks over knives”. of course, there won’t be much left to eat after all that, right?

    you are appreciated, friend!

  25. marie says:

    My first thought is to attack a million other products and not one that is healthy or sort of healthy. I don’t buy cold cereal. We eat oatmeal that I roll or granola that I make. I love granola and have bought pre-made in the past but it’s never as good as when I make it (probably because I add tons of the things I like, example: nuts!) I am kind of on the buyer beware side but it would be so great if food companies were honest. Once I feel a company is misleading I never want to be a buyer of ANY of their products.

  26. KCLAnderson (Karen) says:

    I have come to realize that when any product or brand is bought up by a large conglomerate, it’s going to change. In order to make as much as they need to satisfy demand, they’re going to have to start skimping, changing, using cheaper ingredients, etc. In the end, it’s up to consumers to do their homework (and it’s certainly easier with all the resources online). As of right now, food manufacturers do not have to label GMO ingredients, but I have found that companies that DO use Non-GMO ingredients are proud to label their products as such. That said, I also think that food manufacturers should be held responsible for their marketing/labels/honesty. My own awareness of the hypocrisy/dishonesty has actually worked in my favor because it makes me not want to eat crap food, whereas in the past, I’d crave it.

  27. Taryl says:

    I don’t mind most GMOS crops, as they have greatly benefitted humanity by creating more pest resistant and higher yield strains of food. I believe husbandry of all kinds, including agriculture, is useful to man (and a biblical command, but that’s another discussion 😉 ).

    Kashi advertised – advertising is, by its’ very nature, misleading. You are inflating the desirable qualities of a food and minimizing the undesirables, and that is a slippery slope indeed. This is where consumers have to do their research and decide for themselves, but I don’t think Kashi did anything illegal, given the laws on what constitutes ‘organic’ and such. The guidelines need modifying and strengthening, that may be the underlying issue the outrage should be directed at, rather than the company who rightfully capitalizes on it.

  28. John says:

    “Natural” is undefined (I guess anything is natural when you think about it) so I can’t blame them for putting that in their packaging. Sort of like here in New Zealand where you see the word “flavour” you know it’s not real, but a bunch of chemicals that taste like the real thing.

  29. Christie @ PathtotheHalf says:

    I saw this too! On pinterest maybe? I personally threw away my Kashi not because I knew specifically what the GMO stuff is or does, but because I don’t support dishonesty, and I have to trust a company if I am feeding their product to my family. I will have to do more research before I buy again.

  30. Giselle says:

    i am not that familiar with this controversy although I have read it once.. Anyway, thanks for elaborating it here..

  31. Susan Bewley says:

    Personally, I have always viewed Kashi products as a bit on the overrated side, mostly since they are filled with just as much sugar as some of the non-natural brands. I agree with some of the others here that there wasn’t really any dishonesty here. They never claimed to be organic, or at least from what I had seen. Some grocery stores don’t even put this brand in the organic section.

    Personally, I have mixed feeling about GMO. On one hand, they are creating something unnatural, but on the other, they have created new fruits, vegetables, and some healthier choices. For example, it may very well save the banana which is being destroyed by fungus. Did you know that without work, the modern banana is expected to be extinct in ten to fifteen years, or at least the banana that we know today? The modifications have also allowed certain fruits and vegetables to survive without being destroyed by viruses and bacteria that are harmful to humans and the plants themselves. I think like most things, it is the reason WHY something has GMO ingredients. If its to help the plant and make healthier options for humans, go for it. If its for profit margins for a company, no thanks – I will pay an extra dollar just to avoid it!

  32. M says:

    It’s simple, Outlaw Genetic engineering, Pull all GMO products from market, destroy all the GMO crops & seeds & impression the non-compliant.
    No Controversy..

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