Nutri-Grain, Fake Color, and Why Do American Kids Deserve Less than Europeans?

02 Dec

Take a look at the two packages for Kellogg’ Nutri-Grain cereal bars. One is made here for us. The other is made in the UK for Europeans. Both use food coloring to achieve a more “strawberry-ish” color.

In the UK, the coloring is achieved using beetroot. But in the US, the coloring is Red No. 40, a dye that has been associated with hyperactivity, and some types of cancer.

Why not use the beetroot? The answer is that Kellogg’s probably saves half a penny on each bar using an artificial dye rather than using a natural one.

So why does Kellogg’s use the beets in Europe? Because in Europe the regulator has required WARNING LABELS on products with Red 40. Just like cigarettes. Kellogg’s did the bottom line calculation and decided the loss in sales would cause much more damage than the savings on the food dye.

But in the US, the FDA has given red 40 a GRAS status (Generally recognized as Safe). The reason is one of approach:

In Europe manufacturers need to prove an ingredient is SAFE beyond a shadow of a doubt for it to be approved for use.

In the US researchers need to prove an ingredient is DANGEROUS beyond a shadow of a doubt for it to be banned.

Bummer. But as CSPI reports, the FDA is planning to review the matter:

The news that the Food and Drug Administration, in response to CSPI’s 2008 petition, will convene an advisory committee meeting to discuss the link between food dyes and children’s behavior is welcome and overdue. Yellow 5, Red 40, and other commonly used food dyes have long been shown in numerous clinical studies to impair children’s behavior. But for years, FDA—which actually commissioned one of the first controlled studies—dismissed the mounting evidence against the dyes. read more…

Maybe there is hope for change. After all, our kids deserve better.

What you need to know:

Since we’re talking about a product many families have in their pantry, we thought you’d like to know what else is lurking inside. Here’s how Fooducate’s iphone app rates Nutri-Grain:

This is the ingredient list:

Filling (High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Strawberry Puree Concentrate, Glycerin, Sugar, Water, Sodium Alginate, Modified Corn Starch, Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Sodium Citrate, Dicalcium Phosphate, Methylcellulose, Caramel Color, Malic Acid, Red No. 40), Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Whole Wheat Flour, Sunflower and/or Soybean Oil with TBHQ for Freshness, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Contains Two Percent or Less of Honey, Dextrose, Calcium Carbonate, Soluble Corn Fiber, Nonfat Dry Milk, Wheat Bran, Salt, Cellulose, Potassium Bicarbonate (Leavening), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Mono- and Diglycerides, Propylene Glycol Esters of Fatty Acids, Soy Lecithin, Wheat Gluten, Niacinamide, Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Carrageenan, Zinc Oxide, Reduced Iron, Guar Gum, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid.

Mostly sugar and fillers, questionable preservatives, and artificial flavors. Sounds more like a candy bar than a cereal bar.

Even if Kellogg’s gets around to changing the coloring to beets, consider this a snack, just like Snickers, not  wholesome way to start off the day.

What to do at the supermarket:

Don’t buy candy masquerading as a healthy food. If a bar starts off with sugars as the first ingredients, put it back and choose something else.

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