Kashi Cereal: "Natural" or Not?

Kellogg is facing backlash from angry customers on social media sites who claim the company has misrepresented its Kashi cereal line as “natural.”

The Kashi controversy went viral last week after a Rhode Island grocer removed the cereal from his shelves, replacing it with the following note:

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“You might be wondering where your favorite Kashi cereals have gone. It has recently come to our attention that 100% of the soy used in Kashi products is Genetically Modified, and that when the USDA tested the grains used there were found to be pesticides that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors.”

Photos of the sign began appearing on Facebook, Twitter and food blogs, amidst claims that Kellogg was misrepresenting its cereal.

The store owner posted the sign after reading a publication called Cereal Crimes, a  Cornucopia Institute report which notes that only four of Kashi’s 24 cereal products are certified organic. The 2011 publication also states that Kellogg, the company that owns Kashi, “purchases genetically engineered ingredients for its ‘natural’ Kashi products,” including GMO soy.

The soy in Kashi cereals comes from soybeans that have been genetically modified to protect them from the herbicide Roundup, which kills weeds.

Cornucopia Institute co-director Mark Kastel noted: “We tested their product, their Go Lean cereal product, which gets it protein from soy, and it tests 100 percent genetically engineered.”

Kashi’s general manager says the cereal company has done nothing wrong, noting that the FDA has chosen not to regulate use of the term “natural.” Kashi defines “natural” as “food that’s minimally processed, made with no artificial colors, flavors, preservatives or sweeteners.”

Perhaps partially in response to this backlash, the company also just announced that all new Kashi products will be Non-GMO Project Verified and contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients beginning in 2015.

Still, the fact that many consumers feel misled by Kashi’s packaging and advertising raises important questions about use of the term “natural.” What do you think? Should use of the term “natural” be regulated?

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Image Credit: Mayce Hodges/Flickr