Updated 8/25/2015 (see news below).
Recently, I had a conversation with the regional head of a major grocery chain. As we entered the fruit snacks section, oddly and strategically located in the cereal aisle, he said to me “Vani, how does General Mills get away with this product? The label says “Strawberry Fruit By The Foot” but it doesn’t have any strawberries?!”
Yeah, where is the fruit?
If you look at the ingredients in General Mills product Fruit By The Foot, the first ingredient on the label is “Pears from Concentrate”. The FDA allows companies to say that these are made from real fruit, even if it is from a fruit byproduct like concentrate. It would be one thing if it was simply dried fruit, which is full of fiber and nutrients. However, to make a concentrate the fruit is boiled down to a syrup. This heating process destroys beneficial nutrients. The concentration process involves both adding in and subtracting chemicals and natural plant by-products in order to condense the juice. During the concentration process, fruits lose flavor and this is one of the reasons why companies have to re-add “flavoring” to make the concentrate taste like real fruit. When my team reached out to General Mills, they provided very little information on this ingredient. In a follow-up email they said, “We do not provide details about specific raw materials. However, we can disclose that the product is heated during manufacturing”. One things for sure – it’s not what I’d call “real fruit.”
Let’s get real and call it what it really is: “Fraud by the Foot.”
The first four ingredients in Fruit by the Foot are forms of sugar with little to no nutritional value. One roll contains 2 teaspoons of sugar, which is over half of what the American Heart Association recommends that children eat per day. Sugar is “as addictive as cocaine” according to Dr. Robert Lustig who has reviewed brain scans of his patients. Lustig says his research proves that the sweet stuff causes heart disease and cancer, as well as Type 2 diabetes and obesity. One of the worst repercussions of feeding your kids sugary snacks is that their taste buds become addicted to the sweet taste and they won’t develop the ability to appreciate the taste of bitter foods such as healthy green veggies. This was me when I was little. I didn’t eat anything green, because I wanted anything and everything that was sweet! I remember this diet all too vividly and also reminded of the medical ailments I had as a child as a result. I wouldn’t trade that life for the one I have now for anything!
Contains Eleven Ingredients Derived from GMOs
Yes, count ‘em, Fruit by the Foot has 11 possible GMO ingredients! No wonder they are spending millions of dollars in states across the country to prevent GMO labeling. When we called General Mills, they confirmed that because Fruit by the Foot is made from sugar and corn ingredients, it likely contains GMOs. They also told us that if we wanted to avoid GMOs we should only choose certified organic fruit snacks instead of their products. Yes – they actually recommended that I buy another brand. General Mills should take note that consumers overwhelmingly support GMO labels and the majority don’t believe they have been proven safe to eat. It would be in their best interest to stop funding anti-labeling campaigns, especially if they don’t want to lose customers. These Fruit by the Foot ingredients are typically derived from GMOs:
- Corn Syrup
- Partially Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
- Citric Acid
- Sodium Citrate
- Malic Acid
- Xanthan Gum
- Potassium Citrate
- Acetylated Monoglycerides
General Mills or Generally Toxic? What other potentially harmful ingredients are in Fruit by the Foot?
- Partially Hydrogenated Oil – It’s totally unconscionable that they would add this oil to a snack designed for children, as it’s been implicated in up to 7,000 heart disease related deaths and 20,000 heart attacks every year, and no longer considered safe to eat by the FDA. Cottonseed oil is to be avoided at all costs. Conventional cotton is loaded with deadly pesticides that don’t belong in our food because the cotton crop is regulated by the EPA as a textile crop – not food!
- Carrageenan – As reported by the Cornucopia Institute, carrageenan is linked to intestinal inflammation and can be contaminated with degraded (non-food grade) carrageenan. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer and the National Research Council of the United States have both determined that degraded carrageenan may cause cancer.
- Natural Flavors – Isn’t it odd that the ingredients for every flavor of Fruit by the Foot are nearly identical? There are absolutely no strawberries in the strawberry flavor, and no berries in the berry flavor – so you can only imagine how much natural flavors they are using to make these taste like real fruit. Natural flavors make processed products that lose real flavor during manufacturing taste better than they should.
- Artificial Colors – If real fruit was used, added colors would be unnecessary. A recent Purdue University study found 8.3 mg. of artificial colors in one Fruit by the Foot roll. When this product is combined with other foods that contain artificial food dyes, it can easily add up to the 30 mg. needed to cause adverse reactions. All of these colors come with risks to our health:
- Blue No. 1: Can cross the blood brain barrier, and killed some patients who were being fed colored enteral feeding solutions in 2003. In vitro tests show that it’s potentially a neurotoxin.
- Yellow No. 5: Known to cause allergic reactions, hives, eczema, angioedema, asthma and hyperactive behavior.
- Red No. 40: A U.K. Food Standards Agency study showed this dye could increase hyperactive behavior in children.
On August 25, 2015, Food Navigator reported that General Mills will be removing artificial colors from all fruit snacks, fruit rollups, and fruit by the foot by end of 2017. Congratulations #FoodBabeArmy!
- Acetylated Monoglycerides – This emulsifier is also used as a plasticizer in plastic food containers, medical devices and toys. It’s sprayed onto food as a coating to keep it from sticking and to preserve its shelf life – as it helps to hold in water, just like plastic. We asked General Mills what its purpose was in Fruit by the Foot and they said it was used to keep the oil and water from separating so the rolls don’t fall apart. According to Mira Calton, C.N., author of Rich Food Poor Food, monoglycerides “are no different from the hydrogenated fats associated with heart disease, stroke, obesity and diabetes”. They are a hidden source of deadly trans fat.
A recent lawsuit against General Mills summed up what’s really in Fruit by the Foot: “a mash-up of artificial, unhealthy substances such as artificial partially hydrogenated oil; corn syrup; added sugars; and artificial dyes”. After knowing what you know now, do you really think this product is a “good source of Vitamin C” like it says on the a label?
And don’t think Fruit Roll Ups or Fruit Gushers are any better. They made up of the same toxic mixups of questionable ingredients:
What Are The Alternatives?
- Real Fruit – There’s nothing more beautiful than fresh ripe seasonal fruit. There’s so many to choose from just like nature intended as long as you go organic.
- Dried Fruit – Dried apples, apricots, and prunes all have a low glycemic index – so they are less likely to spike blood sugar levels because they also contain beneficial fiber. My favorite brand is Made In Nature, they are organic, non-sulfured and taste delicious. You can get them here on Amazon, in major natural grocery stores and even at Costco!
- Make Your Own – Homemade Fruit Rolls Recipes by Green Kitchen Stories, Homemade Pantry and Aganist All Grain. I realize that these alternatives also contain sugar, but these are much better choices because they actually contain real fruit and don’t contain GMOs, fake colors and flavors, added sweeteners, trans fats and the other unhealthy ingredients found in General Mills snacks.
- Store Bought Better-For-You Organic Brands; Thankfully there are some brands out there trying to make better fruit snacks without so many questionable additives. Check out Organic Veggie-Go’s Chewy Fruit & Veggie Snacks which are half fruit and half veggies and Matt’s Munchies (The only flavors I recommend are Mango and Ginger – they are both organic and have minimal ingredients.) For a limited time you can get these two flavors at Matt’s Munchies for 10% off with the code: “FOODBABE” on their website.
If you know someone still buying General Mills toxic fruit snacks, please share this post with them! The more we educate the people around us the better world we build!
You might be wondering why I investigate obvious junk food like this…it’s because companies are still getting away with telling us one thing and selling another. The fact that General Mills makes millions of dollars on these products, means there are plenty of people that still don’t know the truth. In order to change the food system, we are going to have to slowly knock each one of these toxic products off the shelves and into the garbage can where they belong!
Thank you for doing your part to create a safer food system for all.