by Melissa Melton
General Mills has officially announced that the company will no longer add sugar derived from GMO sugar beets to its original Cheerios cereal:
While the oats used to make Cheerios have never contained any genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the company did make changes to its sourcing – and now, for example, only uses non-GMO pure cane sugar instead of beet sugar, says spokesman Mike Siemienas.
The change was made “many weeks” ago, says Siemienas, who declined to be more specific on the timing. “We do value our Cheerios fans and we do listen to their thoughts and suggestions,” he says, in an e-mail.
While that is being hailed as a huge anti-GMO victory and people are calling it a real “big deal,” it really seems like more of a condescending pat on the heads of anxious parents more than anything. Am I really the only person who isn’t putting on her best dress and high heels for this party?
Sure, General Mills is removing GMO from their flagship Cheerios cereal, but there are literally a dozen – that’s 12 other types of Cheerios cereal which will still contain unaddressed GMOs, not to mention that the company also makes a bunch of other popular cereals such as Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Kix, Trix, Wheaties, Reese’s Puffs, Golden Grahams, Cookie Crisp, Fiber One, Total, and others, all of which contain corn or corn syrup or maltodextrin (which, in the U.S., is typically made from corn) on top of the GMO sugar beet-derived sugar being used in many of them.
Even the Dora the Explorer brand cereal General Mills produces is made of primarily of corn, and considering that 90-plus percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is GMO, it’s a pretty safe bet that what’s in that Dora box is not organic.
This is the new placation bandwagon mega food companies are jumping on to make people feel a teensy bit better while not really changing much at all in the way of business as usual in America, i.e. company responsibility when it comes to protecting consumers from potentially dangerous chemical additives and genetically modified food ingredients – which remain for the most part completely unlabeled in this country.
Kraft is another company riding that train with the recent announcement that, after months of consumer pressure, it would remove dangerous Yellow Dye No. 5 and No. 6 from some of its less popular mac and cheese varieties. Why? Because it became glaringly obvious consumers didn’t have to be poisoned with coal tar-derived azo dyes that cause all kinds of neurobehavioral and allergic reactions in people (especially kids) that eat them. These dyes have even been linked to cancer – just what every parent wants to feed their kids!
Kraft was already selling versions of these products without these artificial colorings in the U.K. Why? Because these dyes require health risk labels there. They didn’t want to mess with having to actually label their food for what it is. Here in the U.S., however? Ha! Eat dye, Americans.
So what did Kraft do? They finally promised to remove the dyes from some versions of their macaroni, the ones shaped like Spongebob Squarepants or Spiderman or whatever, while blatantly leaving petroleum by-products in the main best-selling versions of their product.
There ya go, parents. Like that teeny tiny infinitesimal microscopic bone Kraft threw you? How about if you’re going to make macaroni for your kids, choose an organic option where you can at least easily pronounce all the ingredients in it? Or make them something from scratch with cheese and boiled pasta that doesn’t contain a bunch of dangerous chemical additives?
Back to Cheerios (because I’m just ranting now), even the FDA admits it’s not as healthy for you as General Mills has historically touted it to be anyway. The agency (totally known for protecting consumer health, right?) forced General Mills to alter its Cheerios marketing back in 2009 for advertising its cereal as if it was so healthy for you, it was basically a drug. Daily Finance reports:
Perhaps General Mills’ marketers got hung up on the way to their workshop on “how to stretch the FDA’s health claims rulings as far as humanly possible”; perhaps they were busy having their cholesterol tested. The most flagrant ad, shown below, shows a grandpa “getting ready for his test,” subject: cholesterol, by eating Cheerios.
General Mills also broke rules in a claim on the company’s website, stating, “Heart-healthy diets rich in whole grain foods, can reduce the risk of heart disease.” See, the FDA authorizes companies only to make these claims in by combining fruits, vegetables, and fiber with whole grains, and by keeping one’s diet low in saturated fats.
The whole kerfuffle, however, hinges on the ridiculous: the FDA’s regulations make statements with which many food scientists disagree – most importantly, many scientists now believe saturated fat isn’t linked to heart disease at all. The fact that General Mills is hitching its marketing wagon so numerically to lowering cholesterol is already a rather extreme and desperate move; the fact that the FDA is quibbling with the wording of its web site claims about whole grain foods being good for one’s health is silly.
The bottom line (back to the main point) is that if we’re buying it and putting it into our bodies, we have a right to know what the hell is in it. Kicking the can down the genetically modified road by removing GMO from a single solitary product (while leaving it in umpteen others) essentially means these food conglomerates don’t give a crap about people in the face of profits.
But hey, I guess companies like Kraft and General Mills can bolster their sympathetic public image while putting in the tiniest amount of effort actually possible and parent groups can cheer their great and momentous victory, so everyone wins, right?
Eat up, kids. Eat up.