“You can't stop the future. You can't rewind the past” – Jay Asher
In a recent blog, Energy Matters, LLC. revealed a huge health-food industry secret. More and more of the all-natural brands we trust are being bought out by big business. Now we’re taking a closer look at what happens when a large corporation buys out one of these small organic brands. We specifically want to understand how the products start to change in terms of health and safety.
While corporations already benefit from the established reputation of the natural brands they purchase--they usually take further action to maximize their profits. Though the products we have grown to trust and enjoy still find their way to the market shelves, it is usually not without a few discrete changes. The first thing a company will do is evaluate the ingredient list to see how they can manufacture the products faster and cheaper, often seeking to also extend the shelf life.
While the original brand was recognized for its high standards in choosing clean and ethical ingredients, this might not be true of the new parent company. A lot of the time, we see the new owner adding chemicals in exchange for more costly fresh ingredients. They may also compromise on the source of these ingredients in order to mass-produce the product more efficiently. Often, it just isn’t possible to source enough local, organic ingredients for nationwide distribution, so they turn to a network of laboratories and factory farms.
In the end, the product may look the same and taste similar—but the nutrition and purity have been significantly altered. One prime example is what happened with Garden of Life after selling out to Nestle.
So, the question becomes, why aren’t these changes regulated? We tend to have the notion that organic and all-natural brands are closely monitored by the USDA or the FDA. However, the FDA does not regulate the use of the term “organic” or “natural” on food labels. And they primarily rely on businesses to self-regulate when it comes to using safe ingredients—until and unless an issue arises.
But what about the USDA Organic certification? The new owner can still maintain organic certification for the reformulated product if 95% of the ingredients are organic. However, that other 5% can be anything. Furthermore, there are 250 nonorganic substances on the National List of exceptions, and the list is growing fast, tripling over the last decade. The list is voted on by the National Organic Standards Board—an organization now coincidentally seated by several members of big business.
As a result, in recent years, you may have seen debate over the inclusion of controversial ingredients such as carrageenan, synthetic inositol, docosahexaenoic acid algae oil (DHA), or arachidonic acid single cell oil (RHA). Most consumers don’t realize that these and many other non-organic ingredients are hiding in their favorite health foods. They are sometimes concealed on the ingredient list under broad terms like “preservatives” or “natural flavoring.”
All this goes to show that no one is really regulating the all-natural sector. So, don’t be misled by buzzwords or familiar food labels. The organic industry tops a billion dollars a year and the original ideal—creating pure, wholesome, safe products—seems to be increasingly compromised as it grows. Rather than relying on any government agency, it is essential that we protect ourselves and our own health. Evaluate the brands you choose, look at their ethics, morals, and mission statement. Read the ingredients and always research to see who really owns the company. Know who you are buying from. Small-scale, family-owned organic businesses are becoming difficult to find, but they do still exist.
For additional guidance, consider scheduling a phone consultation with Rose.
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What To Remember:When small organic companies are bought out by big business, the products can change.Chemicals are added in place of pricier fresh ingredients.There is no industry control preventing these secretive changes.
Sources:Yan, Karen. (November, 2019). As People Focus on Nutrition and Transparency,
Big Food Companies Are Losing Ground. Diatribe.org.
Food & Water Watch. (July, 2018). Understanding Food Labels. FoodAndWaterWatch.org.
Storm, Stephanie. (July, 2012). Has Organic Been Oversized? NYTimes.com.
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