Wednesday, July 8, 2009

It is what it is, unless it isn't.

OK, 2nd post of the day. According to Marion Nestle's "Food Politics" blog, both Horizon and Silk (makers of organic milk and soy milk/soy products, and now owned by Dean Foods) have begun to market "Natural" products. Since there is no scientific or regulatory definition of "natural" this is little more than a marketing ploy, and as noted, this was done so surreptitiously:

"They made the switch to conventional soybeans, in Silk products, without lowering the price. Sheer profiteering. The likelihood is that they will create this new category and enjoy higher profits than they currently realize having to pay those pesky organic dairy farmers a livable wage."

This whole thing is disturbing on a few fronts. On one hand, there is a constant struggle between the organic producers who have "gotten big" and those who say that in doing so they are selling out and losing their initial vision of an "alternative food system." Michael Pollan and the CEO of Whole Foods
duked it out publically a few years ago and actually came to a reasonable understanding on the topic. And if you followed my directions and went out and saw Food, Inc, then you'd see that some of these people really truly believe that displacing commercial, industrial foods on the shelves of any store (even Walmart) is a good thing. Which I agree with. But on the other hand, at what point does it stop? This story illustrates my point perfectly. When the same big players are involved, the same old "foodpolitics as usual" (thanks Sarah) will be the norm.

Then again (I think I'm out of hands here) if a company manages to keep it's soul, then profits will be a good thing for the movement. Actually, that was the first hand. Hmm.

Moral of the story is to ALWAYS be wary of food labeling. Unless it's "certified organic" (and even that can be iffy at times) or came from a farmers market, or godforbid you grew it yourself, words like "natural" or "healthful" or pictures of perfect pastoral landscapes are probably marketing ploys.

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