Thursday, June 21, 2012

Kashi products are not perfect!

Many of you runners have probably seen the Kashi commercial where Kashi's at a road race, handing out some of their cereal and making sure that all of us know that Kashi cereals have "as much protein as an egg." (Just so you know, the amount of protein in one egg is actually only 6 grams, albeit the purest form of protein available.) I never really understood this commercial, as Kashi seems to be well-loved by health-minded consumers.

Apparently they needed more business. And quite soon, they will need a LOT more business. Right now Kashi's being scrutinized after John Wood, owner of The Green Grocer, an organic foods store in Portsmouth, Rhode Island, removed all Kashi products from his shelves, leaving a note stating he did so because they contain GMO (genetically modified organisms) in their products.

According to an article by respected natural health expert Dr. Mercola on his Web site, “Kashi Cereal Stirs Anger - Exposed by Small Rhode Island Grocer”, May 19, 2012, “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!”

This info prompted the grocer to swipe the Kashi from his shelves and leave the note. It made the rounds of social media and now Kashi's facing a lot of scrutiny for supposedly misleading their customers.

Kashi's response? David DeSouza, Kashi’s general manager, says they’ve done nothing wrong. "The FDA has chosen not to regulate the term 'natural,' " he says. The company defines natural as "food that's minimally processed, made with no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners." And, “Kellogg is not misleading people,” says Barbara Haumann of the Organic Trade Association in Brattleboro, VT. Consumers "are totally confused" and don't understand that the only way to get organic food is to buy organic, she says.

This is very interesting news to me, too, as I eat GoLean almost every day, and before just about every run. Did I think Kashi was organic? I did, as it’s usually sold along the other organic cereals in the grocery store.

Is this really that big of a deal, though? What ingredients in their products are genetically engineered? According to Elizabeth Weize on April 29, 2012, in her USA Today article “Kashi Cereal’s ‘Natural’ Claim Stirs Anger”, “The soy in Kashi cereals comes from soybeans that have had a gene inserted to protect the soybeans from the herbicide Roundup, which kills weeds."

Does this mean that Kashi products (most of which contain soybeans) are really all that bad for you? According to Dr. Mercola’s article, “Glyphosate is the active ingredient the herbicide Roundup, which is used on all genetically engineered Roundup-Ready crops, which have been genetically altered to withstand otherwise lethal doses of the chemical. It causes birth defects in frogs and chicken embryos at far lower levels than used in agricultural and garden applications.” His article states it mostly affects the development of the brain and spinal cord.

According to the WebMD feature article, “Are Biotech Foods Safe to Eat?” ( there’s no food that is totally safe (whether it contains GMO or not) and it’s very unlikely to have a reaction to a GMO food.

However, there is a pretty serious account involving Starlink modified corn. The WebMD article states that “In 2000, StarLink (approved by the EPA for animal feed in 1998 but not for human consumption because of concerns it contained a protein that could cause dangerous allergic reactions) turned up in many Kraft products, including their Taco Bell corn shells. Some corn crops were accidentally contaminated with the StarLink seed.” Some people got horrible allergic reactions and there were recalls. Federal tests didn’t indicate the GMO corn caused the reactions, but they also didn’t say that they didn’t cause them.

It looks like some of the GMO foods out there could affect us pretty badly. It’s hard to know what’s safe and what’s not. Is there any way to ensure we’re not consuming GMO products? Yes. The 100% USDA Certified Organic label.

According to Dr. Mercola, the breakdown of the labels goes as follows: products labeled "USDA 100% organic" must contain only organically produced materials, "USDA organic" must contain at least 95 percent organic ingredients, whereas, "made with organic ingredients" can contain anywhere between 70 to 95 percent organic ingredients.

We can look at this from multiple perspectives. Discussions on Facebook have led some consumers of Kashi to be quite angry as they feel they've been misled, while some others ask what the big deal is, as it's difficult to avoid GMO packaged foods as it is.

Do I feel Kashi lied to us? Sort of. But, they did follow the rules even though they took advantage of a loophole.

And in an effort to appease those worried about what’s in Kashi’s foods, Kashi plans to make all of their products 70% organic by 2015. So at least they’ll be able to put “made with organic ingredients” on their packaging.

All this hoopla has got me wondering if my natural peanut butter contains GMO. I hope not, since I love it so! Maybe I'll call Peanut Butter and Co. and Naturally More to find out...

This article is meant to give education on the nutritional content of certain foods. It was not written by a licensed nutrition professional. Please consult your doctor if there are changes you'd like to make to your diet.

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