Separating Misleading Nutrition Claims from Nutrient Dense Brands
Last December, The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit food and farm policy group, released a comprehensive report and accompanying scorecard that exposed the misleading marketing practices by food industry giants that market candy-like energy bars as healthy and nutritious.
The report, Raising the Bar, Choosing Healthy Snack Bars versus Gimmicky Junk Food, details how snack bar quality varies among brands, even among the brands that market themselves as “made with” organic ingredients.
In its newly released October 2018 issue, Consumer Reports, a leading nonprofit product rating and review organization, echoed Cornucopia’s findings that many energy bars don’t live up to the healthy impression manufacturers represent.
Consumer Reports found that many of the 33 bars they analyzed are highly processed. Consistent with Cornucopia’s findings, Consumer Reports also found many bars packed with added sugar.
“It’s good news that more consumer advocacy groups are exposing many of these snack bars for what they really are—unhealthy alternatives to whole, nutritious foods,” stated Anne Ross, a Cornucopia policy analyst and researcher. “Both reports offer great utility and rate different products. Consumer Reports focuses on nutrition, while Cornucopia’s report also evaluates the addition of synthetic additives, some of which have been associated with serious adverse health reactions.”
Cornucopia’s scorecard analyzes over 50 snack bars, most of which are USDA certified organic. Only 11 of the 33 bars analyzed by Consumer Reports are certified organic. Consumer Reports rated bars for nutrition and taste to assign an overall score, with an evaluation of ingredients comprising 60% of the nutrition score.
Cornucopia’s report outlines how consumers get a safer and higher quality product with USDA certified organic brands over conventional mass-marketed brands.
Published research and documentation have consistently illustrated that organically produced products have a lower level of agrichemical residues and are nutritionally superior.
Cornucopia’s report also reveals that low levels of hexane, a neurotoxin, have been detected in common snack bar ingredients, including protein isolates. With the exception of USDA certified organic bars, many snack bars contain protein isolates which are hexane-extracted.
The highest rated brands on Cornucopia’s scorecard are USDA certified organic and use only organic fruits, nuts, and seeds without any added sugars, gums, flours, preservatives, or protein isolates.
Cornucopia’s mobile-friendly tool helps consumers separate the safer and more nutritious products from those with unsubstantiated or misleading health claims.
Mark A. Kastel, Cornucopia’s codirector and senior farm policy analyst, stated, “We are informing consumers of questionable marketing claims by food manufacturing behemoths that blur the line between health and hazard for the sake of corporate profit. Using our scorecard, consumers can weed through these claims to decide which products are better for human and environmental health and which are better left on the shelf.”
Both Cornucopia and Consumer Reports gave high marks to bars manufactured by Nature’s Path and Pure Organic. Cornucopia assigned “excellent” ratings to Nature’s Path Organic Superfood bars and to Pure Organic’s Dark Chocolate Berry. Consumer Reports recommended Nature’s Path Organic Superfood Dark Chocolate Peanut Snack Bar and Pure Organic’s Wild Blueberry Fruit & Nut Bar.
Consumer Reports gave Kind Plus Cranberry Almond + Antioxidants with Macadamia Nuts the top score for taste. Cornucopia’s report, which focuses on additives and processing in assigning scores, noted that although Kind bars use real nuts and grain, they are full of conventional ingredients, sugary syrups, and hexane-extracted soy protein isolate and soy lecithin.
Cornucopia’s report illustrates the benefits of USDA certified organic products, including the difference between certified organic snack bars and those “made with” organic ingredients. Because USDA National Organic Program regulations provide industry-friendly loopholes for the use of conventional, hexane-extracted ingredients in the “made with” organic category, USDA certified organic products are superior.