Smart (aka Deceptive) Labeling

Just when you think you're getting the hang of reading labels, food manufacturers throw you a curve ball and makes food labels even more confusing to decipher.

A recent inquiry to Kellogg's® by a fellow health educator revealed a surprisingly contradictory practice from an answer that didn't really, well, answer anything. Before, the label for these cereal bars didn't separate the ingredients for the crust and the filling. Now, all packages of Nutri-Grain® Cereal Bars look like the one above. When my fellow health educator emailed the company and asked about the change, she was replied with the following:
Thank you for contacting us regarding Kellogg's® Nutri-Grain® Cereal Bars. There has not been a change in the Nutri-Grain formula since 2008 when more whole grains were added to the crust.
As far a the weight of each component, we do not have that information readily availabe but I would think that the filling would be more dense and weigh more than the crust.
I hope these answers helped address any concerns you may have about Kellogg's® Nutri-Grain® Cereal Bars. If you have any additional questions or concerns, simply reply to this email or contact us at 1-800-962-1413.
Thanks again for writing us. We appreciate your interest in our company and products.
          Jill DeLong
          Sr. Consumer Specialist
          Consumer Affairs Department

The rule for listing ingredients is that they are listed in order by weight from the most to the least amount used to make the food. If even Kellogg's
® believes that the filling weighs more than the crust, then why on Earth is the crust's ingredients listed first? 

For label-savvy consumers, seeing "whole grains rolled oats" as the first ingredient is a lot more appealing than "high fructose corn syrup." Capitalizing on this fact, food manufacturers decided to separate the components of the same food item (i.e. crust and filling) so their products can be seemingly healthy. If you've eaten one of these cereal bars, you would know how unappetizingly sweet they are- all thanks to the FIVE kinds of sugar in this one little bar!

Special thanks to Suzy S. for challenging Kellogg's® and sharing the response on Healing Foodie!


Jme said...

I stopped buying those because I saw HFCS!! And it burst the "nutritious" illusion!

But they know exactly what they are doing because they know people will only read so much text before giving up! Augh! This is why we need nutritionists :)

Anonymous said...

Suzy S. here - When I first read the email from them I was upset and couldn’t believe how sneaky they were, but my initial reaction was eclipsed by my philosophy that people shouldn’t be eating so much processed, packaged food. They should worry less about how the ingredients are listed and more about the fact that the food they are eating has an ingredients list in the first place. Since I have moved to New Jersey we have tons of farms around and more and more I am buying the majority of our food straight from the farmer. It is fantastic. So although Kellogg’s has cleverly found a way to market their bars, hopefully the shift will be from educating people on how to read labels to educating people about knowing their farmer, knowing the seasons, knowing what is local, and spending more time and effort on food selection and preparation.

Elizabeth said...

@ Jme: I think I stopped eating these when they started hurting my teeth from having so much sugar. I agree that it's absolutely a business tactic, and the consumers health isn't exactly a priority for food companies.

@ Suzy: I can't agree with you more! I do hope the conversation about nutrition will soon be about how to select fresh food and prepare them instead of scrutinizing what's printed on a package.

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