Obesity epidemic: consumers beware!

Written by Elise Matthews

Consumer Beware: 3 things the Food industry would rather you didn’t know.

In 2002, under Stephen Sanger’s leadership, General Mills grew dominate not only the cereal aisle, but a new rising breakfast star, yogurt.  General Mills’ Yoplait transformed a traditionally unsweetened breakfast item into something much closer to a dessert (it has twice as much sugar per serving as Lucky Charms).  Under the guise of a relatively healthy breakfast item, General Mills produced it’s yogurt product into an even more conveinent, inexpensive breakfast / snack concept for kids that produced $100 million in sales for the company in one year!    The product was called Go-gurt. 

Let’s do a side by side comparison between Go Gurt and Fage 2% to show the difference, which would you rather your child ate?:

Go Gurt                                                           Fage 2%

Health claims: gluten free                              Health claims: protein rich,

 Kosher, no artificial flavors,                          good source of calcium,

No colors from artificial sources,                   gluten free, appropriate for

No high fructose corn syrup                           vegetarians and diabetics     

1 Tube (56 g)                                                  Serving 200g (but I corrected to 50 for comparison)

Calories 50                                                      Calories 37.5  

Calories from fat 5                                          Calories from fat 9

Total fat 0.5g                                                  Total fat 1g

Carbohydrate 10g                                           Carbohydrate 2

Dietary fiber 0                                                 Dietary fiber 0

Sugars 8g                                                        Sugars 2g

Protein 2g                                                       Protein 5g

Ingredients: Pasteurized Milk,                                    Ingredients: Pasturized Milk and Cream

Sugar, Modified Corn Starch,                         Live active yogurt cultures

Kosher Gelatin, Natural Flavors,

Potassium Sorbate, Carageenan,

 Vitamin A, Vitamin D

This story serves as a warning to consumers, food companies are happy to jump on the healthy food band wagon and provide something seemlingly healthy to consumers that is convenient and inexpensive because ultimately, despite efforts to stay healthy, convenience usually wins the battle.  It becomes increasingly more important to be your own detective or shop at stores like Earth Fare or Whole Foods who have policies against food companies who try to pull a fast on over on you.

Here are the top 3 things I think that food industries would rather you didn’t know:

  1. Many supposedly healthy replacement foods are no healthier than the foods they replace.  For example in 2006 there was a huge push to remove sodas from school vending machines, those who were successful found the vending machines then filled with sports drinks and vitamin drinks that despite being a healthier alternative were still packed with sugar and empty calories.
  2. A health claim on the label doesn’t necessarily make a food healthy.  Health claims like “zero trains fats” or “made with whole grains” work to create a false impression that the product is healthy when it’s not.  While the claims are true, a product loaded with salt and sugar, lacking fiber or other nutrients may tout the same health claims on the front of the package. 
  3. Images can be deceiving when it comes to packaging.  A box of fruit juice treats can show pictures of fresh fruit on the package to imply that the treats are made from real fruit, when in reality, the ingredients will tell you that the main ingredients are corn syrup, sugar, and a little bit of white grape juice concentrate.

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