New Report Accuses Natural Foods Marketers of "Cereal Crimes"


Image: TravelEden/CC BY 2.0 (modified)
Are they stealing your money with false advertising claims?

Cornucopia just released a report, Cereal Crimes: How "Natural" Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label--A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Aisle, with a short video (overleaf) highlighting the main findings in the 48-page study.

No one familiar with the unregulated status of the marketing term "natural" will be surprised by the news that big brand names are trying to leverage the organic trend to pry money from unsuspecting consumers with misleading claims. But the Cornucopia report may open your eyes to the risk this poses to the organic farmer as well as the uninformed consumer.The Cereal Crimes report highlights a number of disturbing trends:

  • Big name products introduced as "organic" have quietly cut back the organic content, replacing the certified organic label with the unregulated "natural" claim.
  • Products labeled "natural" still may cost more than certified organic products.
  • 62% of consumers polled do not understand that "natural" products may have residues of pesticides on the fruits and grains, confusing the term with the organic label, which forbids pesticide use. .
  • The organic label forbids use of genetically modified organisms. "Natural" products may contain GMOs, although 61% of consumers polled believe "natural" products are GMO-free.

As reported earlier in TreeHugger, Cornucopia has actually filed a claim with the Federal Trade Commission against Peace Cereal for misleading consumers that their cereal is organic. Peace Cereal, which was 100% organic in 2007, has 0% organic content in 2011 according to the Cornucopia report. The report also calls out Barara's Bakery (60% organic in 2007, 20% organic in 2011), and Annie's Homegrown (100% in 2007, 20% organic in 2011).

What Does "Natural" Really Mean?
If you are still unclear about the use of the word "Natural," or just want a very clear overview of the risks of mis-use of this marketing term, watch the Cornucopia video:

Many supporters of sustainable agriculture accepted the entry of big business giants like Kelloggs and PepsiCo with trepidation, understanding that bringing organic to the masses might require hijacking the industrial food chain, but fearing exactly the turn this trend is now taking.

You can use the Cornucopia Cereal Scorecard to ensure that marketers are not stealing your money under false pretenses. Make sure the premium you pay really goes to support the organic, sustainable agriculture that you want in your diet and in your world.

More on Organic Cereals:
Breakfast of Champions: Cereal With a Sustainable Footprint
Are Lucky Charms Better for You Than Granola?
10 Healthy, Green Breakfast Cereals to Start the Day Off Right

Tags: Advertising | Ethical | Food Safety | Organic Agriculture