Sunday, October 24, 2010

Kellogg's and Kashi

If you're kept up to date by the Organic Consumer's Association, then this is old news; however, with an image like this, I find it very fitting to write this post here at Halloween.

Recently the OCA asked that consumers join them in boycotting Kellogg's based on their use of genetically engineered ingredients.  The catalyst for the boycott was a response received by a Kellogg's Consumer Specialist excusing the use of these ingredients by stating that because organic ingredients are subject to cross-pollination with other genetically modified (GM) ingredients than there's no need to bother eliminating the GM ingredients...or something to that effect.  I've copied the response from the OCA Take Action Alert:

Thank you for your comments regarding the use of biotechnology ingredients. Like you, we want only the best ingredients to go into our products.

Biotech ingredients are safe and have become common in the open market. Sixty to seventy percent of packaged foods in the U.S. include biotechnology crops. Even organic ingredients can contain biotech ingredients due to cross-pollination.

We use biotech ingredients based on the backing of groups including the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the American Medical Association that confirm there are no safety concerns.

Given that I was already unofficially boycotting Kellogg's, having already removed their products from our grocery cart due to their use of GM ingredients, this was no big sacrifice.  That is until I realized that Kellogg's owned Kashi.  Now it's an entirely different story.

I like the Kashi products and have highlighted them in past posts.  A big reason for that is I feel that the company is very responsible in their food allergen labeling, that their product is a healthy alternative to the main stream brands and that the company has a great focus on the environment and sustainability.  In a company profile, I learned that Kashi itself isn't a big company (if you take Kellogg's out of the equation) consisting of just 70 employees.  I had my suspicions about their use of GM products so I limited our purchases to their breakfast cereals.  My kids like the cereals and don't complain when they're served it for breakfast instead of something with an animal mascot on the front of the box.  Frankly, it's quite hard to find cereal that meets my high standards and is also safe for Abigail.  Most "organic" cereals are processed in a plant with other peanut products.

I recently contacted Kashi about their use of GM ingredients, and got the following response:

Thank you for contacting us about our products and the use of genetically modified organisms. At Kashi Company we believe in providing pure, delicious, minimally processed foods for our consumers.

The basis for our product line is our proprietary blend of Seven Whole Grains & Sesame. The whole grains include oats, long grain brown rice, hard red winter wheat, rye, buckwheat, barley, and triticale. None of these grains are commonly harvested using genetically modified organisms.

We do not voluntarily source ingredients that are genetically modified. Due to cross-pollination at the level of the farm and manufacturer it has created an environment in North America where GM is not sufficiently controlled therefore we cannot guarantee that the ingredients we source are GMO free.

Certified organic products are grown using non-GM seeds, but even organic products face significant challenges when it comes to controlling for contamination. Kashi does offer an organic line of cereals called Organic Promise™. 

I can see the Kellogg's influence in their statement concerning the cross-pollination of non-GM plants.  In addition to my reply, here's a link to a message board discussing Kashi's ingredient sources for some of their other product lines.

Here's what I decided.  My favorite cereal is the Organic Promise Cinnamon Harvest cereal and my kids go through a box of Oat Flakes & Blueberry Clusters every couple of days.  My cereal is organic, and the kid's cereal is made using their blend of whole grains none of which are high on the GMO list.  I've found a couple of other safe cereals at Trader Joe's that I now purchase in large quantities to add some variety.  As for the rest of the Kashi products, I don't purchase those anymore.

It makes me both sad and mad at the same time that this much thought, effort and research has to go into the food we purchase.  I'm also disappointed to find an otherwise healthy line of food made toxic by the use of genetically modified ingredients.  Kashi, take note....there are other really good food manufacturers doing what it takes to ensure that they use quality, organic ingredients.  And, as soon as Abigail finishes this clinical trial, and can eat foods processed in a plant that uses peanuts, we're switching!!