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The Cornucopia Institute Rates the Best and Worst Organic and Natural Cereals – How Does Your Favorite Brand Fare?

The Cornucopia Institute Rates the Best and Worst Organic and Natural Cereals - How Does Your Favorite Brand F

There is a big, big difference between organic cereal and all-natural cereal. Unfortunately, most consumers are not aware of this and have been influenced to think that “all-natural” is the healthier option. It isn’t. A great example of this is Kashi. Have you seen their commercials? Attractive people, exercising in the outdoors, talking about the […]

Food Safety
LivingMaxwell.com

There is a big, big difference between organic cereal and all-natural cereal.

Unfortunately, most consumers are not aware of this and have been influenced to think that “all-natural” is the healthier option.

It isn’t.

A great example of this is Kashi.

Have you seen their commercials? Attractive people, exercising in the outdoors, talking about the virtues of a healthy lifestyle.

Well, did you know that Kashi (Kellogg’s) is facing a class action lawsuit for using hazardous substances, prescription drugs, and by-products of uranium mining in a few of their “all-natural” products.

What about Naked Juice (PepsiCo)? You take one look at the packaging of this beverage and it appears that you’re buying a super-healthy drink.

Well, they’re facing a class action lawsuit as well. For what?

For using GMOs in the drinks that it specifically claims are non-GMO.

What this all points to is that as consumers, we have to be extra vigilant and must:

1) Become very educated about what we are putting into our bodies and what we are feeding to our families.

As I wrote about before, we need to understand the difference between “organic” and “natural”, and not get swayed by “all-natural” marketing tactics.

2) Buy organic. This will ensure product quality, so that GMOs and synthetic pesticides are not being used.

3) Continue to do our homework.

Fortunately, The Cornucopia Institute has done a lot of this research for us and has come up with a Cereal Scorecard that ranks all of the organic and natural cereal and granola brands.

Click HERE to see the Cereal Scorecard and click HERE (PDF File) to see the full report.

Cornucopia does a fantastic job with its research, and the organization also puts out a similar piece but for eggs – Organic Egg Scorecard.

Hopefully, these scorecards will alert you as to which brands are doing business the right and healthy way and which ones are not.

Remember, “natural” products mean very, very little whereas “organic” has strict enforcement, rules and third-party verification.


20 Comments

  • I’m not fighting the system. I’m criticizing it. There’s a difference, I trust you will agree.

    I don’t know anyone trying to improve the organic system right now, except for individual organic farmers, many of whom are no longer certified because it’s too expensive and offers them nothing in return.

    Everyone just seems to be promoteing the organci industry instead of trying to fix it. Case in point: it was way-way-WAY back on March 19, 2010 when the NYTimes announced that Miles McEvoy was finally going to start “enforcing testing rules” in order to “improve oversight of the industry.” Three years later and organic certifications still occur completely on paper. That to me is a sign of a seriously mulfunctioning system. And it’s a green light to fraud.

    I guess what I’m trying to convey to you Max is that until there’s routine field testing in the organic industry, there’s nothing to work with, except of course for individual farmers, many of whom still rise above and beyond. But the certification system itself is busted I’m afraid.

  • One more thing Max:

    You say “The only way we can get standards tightened and upgraded is if we continue to support organic (not run away from it) and get as many people eating organic as possible.” I’m afraid couldn’t disagree more.

    If consumers continue to buy USDA-certified-organic food in grocery stores – most of which comes from Mexico, China, Brazil etc… – they will only reward the current top-heavy, bureaucratic system; the USDA will continue to promise that they’ll begin field testing… someday, but will keep dragging its feet, and domestic organic farmers will continue to watch helplessly as their marketshare plummets even further below 50%.

    Organic agriculture has to become relationship-dense, or it will be crushed under the weight of its own phony, temporary success. Think about it… how long do you think consumers will continue to dish out a whopping $30-billion per-annum on USDA-certified-organic food in grocery stores after they realize this food carries absolutely no guarantee whatsoever of being purer, more nutritious, safer of even domestic?

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Mischa,

      You would rather fight the system than work to better it. That is fine, but it is an approach that I disagree with.

      Live well,
      Max

  • Dear Max:

    You say: “Most people don’t know their farmers.” Good point! So what we have to change that.

    Direct farmer-to-consumer relationships (as Joel & Teresa Salatin espouse: http://www.polyfacefarms.com/) are the only way – let me stress the ONLY way – that you can hope to get genuine organic food.

    Along the same lines, Marcus from New Jersey says, “winter is approaching… farmer markets are closing… My food buying locations are becoming very limited… Should I buy the cheaper conventional vegetables or buy the Organic at the grocery store?”

    The answer, it pains me to say, is to buy conventional vegetables until your local farmers return in the spring. Never buy certified-organic food in a grocery store, unless you can be guaranteed it is doemstically produced, which you cannot under the current regulatory framework.

    Always buy directly from a farmer you know, and don’t worry whether he/she is certified or not. You’ll know if they’re really organic better than any inspector or bureaucrat ever will.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Mischa,

      I disagree with you there. I would much rather buy certified organic than conventionally-grown, which is almost guaranteed to contain pesticides or GMOs.

      Live well,
      Max

  • Dear Max:

    I suppose Ralph Nader could have continued to support the automobile industry in the early 1970s, and could have worked WITH auto makers to tighten up safety standards. But, like me, he tried that route and hit a big brick wall. So he went directly to the public like I’m doing. And the next thing you know, cars started to be built with shatter-proof glass and seatbelts.

    Large bureaucracies won’t change, indeed some might say they simply cannot change. At some point you have to step out of an industry and shine lack back upon it.

    I can’t claim to be even one-tenth the consumer-protection activist that Nader is, but the parallel between the issues of automibile safety and organic food integrity are plain to see.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Mischa,

      I would say that every industry has its issues, organic included. To think that it doesn’t would be incredibly naive.

      Live well,
      Max

  • Sven Jergensen says:

    I like the list, but I will say that it’s a little misleading. My wife works for one of these companies and I know for a fact that nothing they sell contains GMO ingredients, even though they’re not 100% “certified organic”. I also know a number of farmers that are “basically” certified organic but don’t have the certifications because the USDA is like an agricultural mafia and to be avoided like the plague. While I personally look for organic foods and I think everyone should, it’s misleading to state that someone being USDA organic means a whole lot. The USDA is also the agency that is pushing GM products on us, and the agency that’s sending police officers to raw food facilities with their guns drawn. They’re also already approving synthetic chemicals produced w/ the aid of genetic engineering in “organic” agriculture. The scores seemed to be primarily based on how much was organic in the offerings of the companies, so that’s why I’m saying this. There’s a whole lot more that goes into buying good food than looking for some meaningless green sticker on a bag of cereal.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Sven,

      Thanks for your comment. There is no doubt that the organic certification process is not perfect but it is the best we have and the more we pressure we can put on the USDA to improve it, the better off we all will be.

      What I will also say is that much of the USDA’s policies are dictated from the White House. First Bush and now Obama – both are VERY pro-GMO. While I very much wish this weren’t the case, it does not help organic enforce tighter standards nor does it help the industry in any meaningful way.

      I appreciate your feedback.

      Live well,
      Max

  • Eric says:

    Max,

    Continue to enjoy your thoughts and articles.. Keep it up!!

    Eric

  • Dear Marcus:

    When the farmers you know personally and trust implicitly run out of product to sell you locally, I advise that you return to your supermarket and buy regular food until the farmers markets in your area open back up. Under no circumstances should anyone buy anything labeled “certified-organic” in a grocery store.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Mischa,

      While everyone is entitled to their own opinion and I know you have vast experience in the field that I do not, I find your comment to be truly ridiculous and counterproductive.

      Most people don’t know their farmers. So, based on your logic, they should go buy non-organic milk, which has a good chance of being produced with bovine growth hormones, instead of certified organic milk.

      I understand that there is corruption in the organic industry (as there is in all parts of life, Wall Street being just one of them) but your anger is very misguided.

      On one hand, you are mad because the USDA doesn’t do 100% field testing for organic. On the other hand, you are telling people not to buy organic but only non-organic, if you can’t procure food from the local farmer that you know.

      The only way we can get standards tightened and upgraded is if we continue to support organic (not run away from it) and get as many people eating organic as possible. The more people we have on board, the greater influence we will have to enact real change.

      Live well,
      Max

  • Dear Max:

    I don’t expect the USDA organic certification program to be perfect. But I do expect it to at least have a leg to stand on. At present it does not. There are plans to begin testing 5% of applicants, but 100% would be better. After all, field testing is cheaper than monitoring paperwork.

    Until field testing is implemented, corruption will remain a fixture in the USDA organic certification program. And that’s a total shame.

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Mischa,

      I agree, having 100% testing would be ideal.

      Corruption is a problem with all parts of the government, USDA included. In my view, we need to continue to support organic as much as we can in order to tighten up the standards and get more of the population on the organic train. It’s the only way.

      Live well,
      Max

  • Marcus says:

    Hi Mischa,

    Just read your comments here and just listened to your interview http://www.isitorganic.ca/home

    You say don’t buy Organics at the grocery store buy from local farms. I assume that “don’t buy” also includes Whole Food Stores too.

    I live in New Jersey, winter approaching so the “local” farmer markets are closing, we had multiple mother-nature damage to our local farms. My food buying locations are becoming very limited.

    Should I buy the cheaper conventional vegetables or buy the Organic at the grocery store? Sounds like you saying both are the same.

    You pointed out the problems with the Organic Industry, any suggestions to us “the consumer” to help improve the weakness?

  • The Cornucopia Institute warns that cheap, “Natural” food products deceive consumers because they might contain toxic chemicals. But wait just a second here… there’s no field testing in the organic industry. None. So how do we know the certified-organic food Cornucopia prefers is even purer and more nutritious as claimed?

    Cornucopia also warns that major agribusinesses are competing with the poor old organic industry. What they fail to mention is that most organic food sold in grocery stores these days is actually imported from places like China, Mexico, Brazil and Chile, and too darn bad for the local, family organic farmer.

    I’m big a supporter of the organic movement. I grew up on an organic grain farm and worked for five years as an organic inspector. And it saddens me to say that the certification of “organic” food is nothing more than a glorified marketing scheme. Buy from a local farmer that you know! And do not under any circumstances ever buy organic from a grocery store.

    You see, the United States Department of Agriculture’s much-ballyhooed National Organic Program (NOP) is administered under the rubric of the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service, not its Research, Inspection, Nutrition, Safety, Risk Management or Conservation services. Don’t consumers and the environment deserve a bit of scientific assurance?

    Cornucopia knows full well that there’s no field testing. In fact they think the USDA should maybe start spot testing, but they don’t think there’s any point testing all organic farms and processing facilities even though doing so would cost a tenth what the current bureaucratic system costs.

    So, with all due respect to the Cornucopia Institute which claims to stand up for the right of family-scale organic farmers, I really have to ask… Have you ever heard that expression about people who live in glass houses?

    All the best, and stay organic!

    • Max Goldberg says:

      Hi Mischa,

      I appreciate your feedback.

      Yes, you are right. There is no field testing with organic and therein lies the conflict between USDA/NOP Certified Organic and the Non-GMO Project.

      In ideal world, we would buy cereal/grains from a local farmer who does not use GMOs or synthetic pesticides. However, that is simply not an option for 99% of the population out there.

      Is the USDA organic certification program perfect? No.

      Is there corruption with the USDA organic certification program? Yes.

      However, it is the best we have and, in my view, we have to do what we can to support it, improve it and make it better.

      Is buying a certified organic cereal better than buying a “all-natural” cereal. I would say absolutely “yes.” What would you say?

      Live well,
      Max

  • stephanie haughey says:

    Hello Max,

    Super. Thank you!

    All the best,
    stephanie

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