Monday, January 18, 2010

Beware of sneaky ingredient changes in your favorite foods

I realized something this week that first made me enormously angry, and then just really sad. I have been buying Cascadian Farm's organic Purely O's cereal for my toddler for about four months now. I chose this brand over Cheerios and Trader Joe's O cereal because it was organic AND only had fruit juice as the sweetener. In an age where everything seems to have added cane sugar and high fructose corn syrup I was very happy to find Purely O's.

Then something happened a few days ago. I noticed the Os in new box I purchased were a slightly lighter color, so I tasted one. It was REALLY sweet. Upon looking at the label I saw that for some reason there's now sugar, tapioca syrup and molasses. WHAT! Now they have three times the sugar as Cheerios! And no warning on the label that there's now added sugar to Lizzie's favorite formerly healthful snack.

So I wrote the company explaining the reasons I stated above for choosing their product and my confusion at the new ingredients. This was their response:

Thank you for contacting Cascadian Farm regarding your dissatisfaction with the recent reformulation of Cascadian Farm organic Purely O's cereal.

Our goal is to give consumers quality products at a good value. Prior to introducing any product, extensive consumer testing is done. We conduct market research and product testing continuously to obtain consumer reaction to existing products and to changes being considered. Only when we feel confident that a product change will broaden its appeal will we alter a product’s formulation. We are sorry that you do not agree that the recent change in Cascadian Farm organic Purely O's cereal was for the better.

We appreciate your loyalty to General Mills and hope you continue to choose our products.


Katie Gafler
Consumer Services

I do believe that in a taste test the average American would choose the sweeter product, we are so programmed to expect sugar that I don't blame the taste testers. But what about those of us who don't WANT the sugar! I'm not the only mom who noticed and is a bit pissed off. On Urban Baby. com there are quite a few complaints. I'm glad it's not just me.

Now I'm just sad that the one more product has fallen victim to the sugar mentality. And I'm sad that because of childhood obesity Lizzie's generation is the first predicted to have a shorter life expectancy than my generation. How can we keep our kids healthy and slim if everything they eat is loaded with sugar? I'll keep looking and shopping around and hopefully I can find another organic and cane sugar-free version of Cheerios.


  1. I agree! It's too bad that everywhere we turn we are subjected to more and more sugar. And that makes you want more of it. I think we must be vigilant, and you are definitely making it better for some people who might not have noticed. Great post, Kate!

  2. "We appreciate your loyalty to General Mills and hope you continue to choose our products."

    That one sentence explains it all. Apparently Cascadian Farms has been purchased by my former employer, General Mills one of the largest cereal companies in the world and the makers of Cheerios.

    I am still quite loyal to some GM brands but their choices don't always make sense for the consumer.


  3. It is good that you are so observant. Of course, when I really like something, it irks me tremendously when it is changed, or shall the term be "reformulated."

  4. Kate, the addition to most products nowadays are growing. Powdered milk products which I thought has less sugar is not spared anymore. I think that's the reason why kids nowadays are over hyperactive, do you think so?


  5. i don't blame you. sheesh.
    and i think the form letter was just an added blow. please!
    good for you for paying attention.

  6. DJan: that's the sad bit: the more sugar we get the more we want it. I cut out all sweeteners for three months a few years back and ow everything sweet tastes REALLY sweet, which is good so I eat less sugar :)

    SQ: you are right, I've bought GM cereals most of my life, I like them. But I'm sad that they couldn't keep just one product low sugar for those of us that want it. total bummer.

    Lynn: I think that's more what bugs me about this. I really liked it the way it was, why change a good thing?

    AL: you could very well be right. Kids are getting WAY more sugar then they did when we were kids, could be a huge part of the hyperactivity problem.

    Bethany: At least the letter was addressed to me personally (I just didn't include that bit) but it still isn't very apologetic.

    thanks for reading everyone!

  7. Kate - I don't know if your little one would eat it but this is our typical breakky: organic oatmeal, a spoonfull of fresh organic honey and a plain organic yoghurt. My little pokemon likes banana on his. The kids have eaten this for as long as I can remember. It is cheap, simple, you dose the amount of honey to taste. If you soak the oatmeal in yoghurt the day before it makes a sort of 'Bircher Muesli' style that is nice and soft for a wee tyke... Try it! It's also really economical if you can buy in bulk at a local organic health food store... Thwarting attempts to make the world a 'sweeter' place ;-) Ever yours, Ange

  8. Ange: Organic oatmeal and yogurt is actually what we give our daughter for breakfast and she wolfs it down! She loves it! I sometimes even make my own yogurt. Haven't tried it with honey yet, but I'll do that. What I'm looking for is a snack. I like the Cheerio-like cereal because I can put a pile on a low table and she grabs it as she gets hungry. I think I found another brand, just have to find where they sell it...thanks for the honey tip! We have a great local source.

  9. Oh snap. Cheerio-type cereals are so convenient for early eaters. I have 5 month another few months, I'll be looking for finger foods for him. I'd love to hear what replacement you decide on. (As an aside, I find most of the organic cereals, especially the ones aimed at kids, to be exceedingly sweet. I never really thought about it before...)

    Oh, and another aside: as a parent of a child with food allergies, I notice ingredient lists of products change all the time, so you really do have to keep a constant eye. It's happened a number of times where I've had to give up a previously safe product.

  10. What a Card: I'll keep you posted, still looking. If I have time this week I'm going to stop at my local natural food store and ask them. they usually know everything about anything organic and cane sugar-free :)


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