There’s a war going on inside the food industry right now and I’m sitting on the edge of my seat… watching each play… and seeing who makes the right moves.
Some of the changes we are seeing are good and some are bad. The food industry is responding at rapid pace – Papa John’s is getting into organic food, Kraft created organic Lunchables, General Mills removed BHT from most of their cereals, Frito Lay is selling Organic Doritos and Amazon bought Whole Foods!
After decades of using the cheapest and easiest ways to create products to maximize profits, brands now have to face the thousands of Americans (including the Food Babe Army!) who are more aware of the crazy additives they are sticking in our food and are demanding change. There are a growing number of us who are no longer willing to buy pickles with yellow #5… almond milk with carrageenan, chips with MSG… or drinks colored with caramel coloring.
But some players in the food industry are making all the wrong moves and our trust is going to continue to decline – unless they wake up and realize that there is a new generation of smart, savvy, health conscious, and educated people out there to hold them accountable. Basically, they need to stop acting like we are a bunch of idiots.
The food industry is reinventing itself faster than ever.
How Kraft, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, Campbells, etc. are reacting to the “clean food” revolution and changing marketplace is very telling. They can either choose to side with consumers who overwhelming want to buy real food without unnecessary and risky additives… or they can continue locking arms with the big chemical companies in how they will formulate and label their products.
There’s a “mounting distrust of so-called Big Food, the large food companies and legacy brands on which millions of consumers have relied on for so long” ~ Denise Morrison, CEO of Campbell’s
Campbell’s just announced they’re dropping out of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), not for financial reasons, but rather “driven by purpose and principles” as they want to become “the leading health and well-being food company.” The GMA is a top industry trade group with a shady history who lobbies for policies that support junk food brands and has spent millions fighting against GMO labeling. Could it be that Campbell’s wants to rise above the fray and base their brand on ethics and trust? Or, are they trying to pull a quick one on us? It’s too early to tell, but you can bet I’m keeping a close eye on their next move.
The latest food industry inventions…
I sent a member of my team to the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) Annual Meeting & Food Expo last year, which is essentially where major chemical companies and scientists converge to discuss their latest inventions in the food industry and present them to food companies. Many of the food additives I’ve campaigned against… artificial food dyes, Class IV caramel color, BHT, TBHQ, artificial and natural flavors are all showcased here. They also discuss the growing organic and “clean food” movement (including the Food Babe Army) and what they need to do to continue profiting off of chemical food additives and GMOs.
DOW Chemical’s French Fries? Don’t worry, we didn’t eat them 😉
New food additives being presented by Tate & Lyle at the IFT Expo.
New “Clean-Label” additives seen on the IFT Expo floor.
The food industry is having an identity crisis…
While many of the biggest food additive manufacturers were showcasing their new “natural”, “non-GMO”, and “clean-label” additives designed to replace synthetic colors, flavors, and preservatives, the word on the street focused on how they want to change customer perception so that Americans would come to accept food chemicals and GMOs in their food. They don’t like the sweeping changes that food brands are making to remove chemical additives from their food, as this is costing them a lot of money and possibly more. If consumers stop buying packaged foods full of additives, their market will disappear.
They’re pleading with their members to curtail our movement by recruiting more “science communicators” to gain the public’s trust in their food technologies. Their mindset is that consumers “fear what they don’t understand” and that if they could only explain their food chemicals in a warm and fuzzy way, we would accept them.
But, they’re way off target. We don’t trust the brands who use these chemical additives for good reason, and there may be no coming back. Last week I asked on social media if you trust the Big Food brands like Kraft, Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Coca-Cola, and the overwhelming consensus was NO. And, I don’t blame you. Here are five reasons why these brands have lost our trust…
Reason #1: They Have No Ethics
Many brands reformulate their products with healthier ingredients in other countries and also don’t use GMOs overseas where labeling is required. I’ve written about this many times before and exposed the shocking double-standard of how many brands serve one set of ingredients here in the U.S. and remove controversial additives in other countries that have stronger regulations. The examples are seemingly endless…
- Pepsico uses natural colors like black carrot juice concentrate and beta carotene in Gatorade in other countries, while they use artificial dyes derived from petroleum (red 40, yellow 5) in the U.S.
- Doritos are covered in yellow 6, yellow 5, and red 40 in the U.S. and colored more simply with paprika extract, annatto, and non-ammonia (class 1) caramel color in Europe. They also sell non-GMO Doritos overseas, while they are filled with “substantial levels” of GMO corn in the U.S. which is contaminated with glyphosate weedkiller.
- Coca-Cola uses non-GMO sugar in their sodas in the U.K., but they are sweetened with GMO high fructose corn syrup in the U.S.
- Likewise, Heinz products are GMO-free in the U.K. but full of GMOs in the U.S.
- Starbucks doesn’t use any caramel color in Europe, but for years they used class IV caramel coloring (made from ammonia) that is linked to cancer here in the U.S. (Starbucks recently removed it from most of their drinks in the U.S. after we brought a huge amount of attention to this issue!)
- General Mills and Kellogg’s don’t use the preservative BHT in their cereals overseas, but thought it was just fine to use it in the U.S. where we have lax regulations. Since we launched a nationwide petition, General Mills has quietly removed BHT from many of their cereals, but it took thousands of signatures and consumer advocacy to make this happen.
- McDonald’s french fries in Europe are made with a few simple ingredients: potatoes, oil, dextrose, salt – but in the U.S they’re made with “natural beef flavor”, preservatives, and fried in oil laced with the anti-foaming agent dimethylpolysiloxane (They removed this from their online ingredient list for their fries, but it is inconspicuously disclosed in the footer of their website – SO SNEAKY!)
- Although some major brands will start labeling GMOs under new laws in the U.S., they will not follow suit in Canada. Why not just label them in every country where they sell GMO food?!?
Reason #2: They Fight Transparency
Over the years we’ve watched Kraft, Pepsico, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Nestle, Kellogg’s, and ConAgra give millions to fight GMO labeling laws, even resorting to money laundering to hide their contributions to anti-labeling campaigns. They have spent insane amounts of money to hide the GMOs in their food, despite the fact that poll after poll shows that roughly 90% of consumers want to see GMO labels on packages. As I wrote about in The Food Babe Way, Pepsico spent over $8 million, Coca-cola spent nearly $6 million, Kraft spent nearly $4 million, and ConAgra, General Mills, and Nestle each spent over $2.5 million to fight GMO labeling initiatives. Why spend this much money to fight something that consumers overwhelmingly want? It really has felt like a stab in the back.
The new nationwide “labeling” law that passed in 2016 is giving these companies a way out. They can simply use a QR Code instead of the words “Produced With Genetic Engineering” on the package (and they won’t even need to do that for several years). Since this law passed, some brands who had begun labeling their products – like Kellogg’s – are now removing them. It’s so outrageous, and just goes to show they never did this with their customer’s best interests in mind in the first place!
Photo Credit: GMO Free USA
The same goes for restaurants who refuse to disclose their ingredients like In-N-Out Burger. Everyone deserves to know what is in the food they are buying, and there is NO REASON for restaurants to withhold ingredient lists and claim that it is “Proprietary” just because there are no regulations requiring them to disclose. We all know that is a load of you know what…
Reason #3: They Break Promises
Back in 2014, Pepsico announced they would remove Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) from Mountain Dew following a successful petition by activist Sarah Kavanagh. However, they still have not removed it THREE years later. And before you believe they’re still working on the formula – they already sell BVO-free Mountain Dew in the U.K. What’s the holdup?
Likewise, over TWO years ago Kellogg’s told the media they were looking for an alternative to BHT in their cereals, but they sell cereals overseas without BHT already! Why not just sell us the exact same cereal? This is not rocket science.
The same goes for companies like In-N-Out and Bojangles that have publicly vowed to remove antibiotics from their animal feed – but haven’t given a time to the public and have continued their horrendous factory farming practices.
Reason 4: They Don’t Tell The Truth
The Co-CEO of Whole Foods once asked me what I thought the new trends in food packaging would be considering the food revolution we are in. I told him we’d start seeing ingredient labels on the front of packaging because consumers care about ingredients. Well, one company – RX Bars – started doing that and when I saw their protein bars in stores I thought my prediction had come true. However, when I examined the bars closer and read the ingredient list on the back of the package, I saw natural flavors listed. The front of the package is not the whole truth and it’s misleading consumers.
This is what angers me about new food companies trying to give us more real food. If you want to gain consumers trust – tell the truth. As you can see from my recent interview with Mark Schatzker of The Dorito Effect, “natural blueberry flavor” is a way for the food industry to use fewer real blueberries and trick consumers into thinking they are getting more nutrition and flavor that isn’t there. The pop of taste from added flavors is made in a laboratory and makes food that we wouldn’t otherwise eat taste like something good. Is that why RX Bar chooses not to put the ingredient on the front of their package like the rest of their ingredients?
When Kraft removed the artificial dyes from their Mac n’ Cheese they came out with a marketing campaign which made it sound as if they came up with the decision all on their own – instead of just saying THE TRUTH: You asked for it and we delivered. They make no mention of the countless concerned parents who have been asking them to remove these unnecessary dyes for years. They make no mention of the adverse health effects that have been attributed to these dyes and as to why they don’t use them overseas. They make no mention of the over 365,000 of you who signed a petition asking them to make this change. They make no mention of the meeting they had with me in 2013 when they told me that we’d just have to “agree to disagree” and that Kraft was going to keep Mac & Cheese just the way it was. We all know the truth, but they are not owning up to it, which is quite simply ridiculous. I received the following email from a reader, which expresses my sentiments!
“Have you seen the new Kraft Mac and cheese commercial? I’m just wondering if you are as offended as I am. They make it seem like all the crap they were adding before the change would somehow affect the quality or taste and that people didn’t even notice the change. I haven’t eaten Kraft Mac and cheese in years but am thankful for your work on getting them to change the way they make it. It’s just sad they think it’s appropriate to make a commercial that makes the consumer feel as if they’re “missing out” instead of apologizing for all the poison they had put in their food previously.” – Jaime
My visit to Kraft HQ delivering petition signatures in 2013.
Some of brands try to pull the wool over our eyes by announcing they’re cleaning up their food, while they are really just swapping one poison for another. McDonald’s was quoted all over the media saying how they removed the artificial flavors in their ice cream as if this was a major step towards improving their food, but all they did was replace it with natural flavors. Anyone who’s been reading this blog for awhile knows that natural and artificial flavors are essentially the same thing (and their ice cream still contains lots of nasty ingredients like carrageenan, mono and diglycerides, and cellulose gum!)
Reason 5: They Try To Fool Us
Food brands have bankrolled scientists and created front groups to attack organic food and defend the continued use of food produced with synthetic pesticides, antibiotics, GMOs, and chemical food additives. Groups like the “American Council on Science & Health” and the “Center For Consumer Freedom” sure sound like independent and scientific organizations, but they are funded heavily by food companies like Coca-Cola and McDonald’s.
These groups and scientists they work with are often quoted in the media without any mention of their ties to the industry and are given a free pass because they present themselves as independent experts.
“Joseph Perrone, chief science officer at the Center for Accountability in Science — part of a larger tax-exempt group run by the Berman and Co. public relations firm — said industry needed to mount a coordinated effort to paint the risks of common chemicals as acceptable to the public and boost trust in federal regulatory agencies that evaluate them… Perrone’s message is that customers don’t trust chemical companies, and they need “a good PR plan, which is external to the company, which is a third party. Because, quite frankly, whether we like it or not, they don’t believe you.” ~ E&E News
Presentation by the front group The Center For Food Integrity at IFT Expo.
This is highly unethical. How can we be expected to trust brands that have a history of doing this? We really can’t.
Trust is really important and after it’s been broken, it can be hard to come back from. We have wised up to the dirty tactics they use. If food brands want us to buy their products they really should listen to us – their prospective customers – and stop hiding behind antiquated regulations and paid-off “experts” to justify selling us chemicals instead of food. I truly believe the only way they can gain our trust is by siding with consumers who overwhelmingly want them to sell real food that is healthy and sustainably grown.
The BIG FOOD companies need to wake up if they want to remain in today’s marketplace.
We are fed up with the chemical additives they use.
We are fed up with the double standards.
We are fed up with their misleading marketing and deceptive front groups.
We are fed up with their lack of transparency.
We are fed up with their support for factory farms.
We are fed up with the great lengths they go to hide GMOs in their products.
We are fed up with how they continue to hide behind our government’s lax standards and claim the additives they use are “safe”… We’ve heard it a million times and know the truth!
We have the power. Don’t let the food industry control your health.
I want you to be the smartest consumers out there. I want you to change your life, and the lives of your families. Be in charge of your destiny. The first step is to stop being hijacked by all the processed foods out there that look better – but really aren’t. And to eat whole, real foods that will give you the most amazing health of your dreams. You’ll get a chance next week to join a special group of people, along with the support of myself and my entire team, that will help you do just that! Make sure you are subscribed to my email newsletter, so you get your invite!
The industry has done some things that have demolished my trust and I’m sure you feel the same… but they have made some changes that give me hope that maybe they can turn it around and do the right thing.
What do you think? Is there anything the food industry can do to gain your trust? Is it too late for them? Are they forever on the wrong side of history? I’d love for you to chime in! Share your thoughts in the comments.