Tricky Big Corporations Make My Job Of Feeding Organic Products To My Kids Harder

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shutterstock_126386192When it comes to grocery shopping, I would love to buy everything organic so that I would never worry about what I put in my young children’s bodies, but that’s not feasible for my family. So I am very strategic in my organic-brand purchasing habits. I splurge as often as I can when it comes to thin-skinned fruits that my kids seem to inhale – like strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. I also demand organic in dairy products because they eat so much yogurt and drink so much milk. But it seems my efforts still may not be enough.

Recognizing the increasing market share of organic products, big name corporate brands are buying up the popular organic labels.  Both Boca Burgers and Kashi were acquired by Kraft and Kellogg respectively.  More recently Perdue snatched up Coleman Natural, which makes me very sad. We’ve pretty much stop eating meat because organic is so expensive, but when we do I always go for the organic, free-range alternatives.  Because I’ve seen those frightening documentaries and exposes on the way some big companies raise their meat-producing animals.

In the name of full disclosure, Dr. Philip H Howard of Michigan State University has created a brilliant flow chart to show the intermingling and watered down movement in the organic market (check it for your favorite brands). I’m going to have to start bringing this with me to the grocery store.

“It’s very common that when an organic food brand is acquired, that the new parent corporation reduces its commitment to organic ingredients and seeks out cheaper substitutes,” writes Howard via email. “Examples include Odwalla after it was acquired by Coca-Cola, Silk Soymilk after it was acquired by Dean, and Peace Cereal after it was acquired by Hearthside Foods (now Post Foods).”

The verdict is still out on whether organic food is healthier than non-organic, but with all the additional pesticides, hormones, and chemicals in our food today, I do what I can to keep it to a minimum. Of course that’s already taking into account the things I have to worry about to battle precocious puberty as Eve Vawter wrote about months ago:

The FDA currently allows six hormones in the food supply, including estradiol, estriol, testosterone and progesterone – the sex hormones that can accelerate the age at which puberty occurs.  The obesity epidemic plays a role as well. Estrogens are made and stored in fat tissue – increasing exposure in overweight and obese children.

And, of course, toxins found in everyday products can be a culprit as well. Household products like hand soap, shampoos, cosmetics and cleaning products contain chemicals – namely parabens – that are known as xenoestrogens and can mimic estrogen in the body, increasing the likelihood of early puberty.

And now Howard is saying my strategic efforts are not enough since trusting a favorite brand may lead us astray.

Consumers have to be vigilant about scanning the ingredient lists as a result. Checking the fine print on packaging, says Howard, can help consumers assess how many of the ingredients remain organic even after a company take over.  Silk Soymilk, for example, began to use conventional soybeans instead of organic after it was taken over by Dean Foods without changing the packaging, although it did remove the “organic” label on cartons.

Bad news parents, your favorite organic brands acquired by big corporations means less certainty in their standards and more work for us.

(photo: Art Allianz/Shutterstock)