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Granola and berries: a colorful and healthy breakfast. Photo by G.M Vozd | IST.



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STEPHANIE ZONIS is a contributing editor.



January 2012

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Fruits & Nuts

Page 3a: Natural Granola Cereal

The Term Doesn’t Mean Much


This is Page 3a of a seven-plus-page article on granola cereal, and reviews of 140 granola cereals plus muesli. Click on the black links below to visit other pages.


What Does “Natural” Mean? Not Much!

What exactly is “natural” granola? It’s whatever the manufacturer wants it to be, as there are no regulations or official guidelines.

As of this writing, there are no standards in the U.S. for the words “natural” or “all natural” (at least as far as most foods are concerned; there are some minimal requirements for meat).

While “organic” is an official certification of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (and the packages carry the USDA organic seal), anybody can tell you that their products are “all natural,” and it doesn’t mean a thing—even if their intentions are good.

In fact, terms like “natural” or “all natural” granola might be the biggest buzzwords of all.

  • Confusion. As most people know, there are some standards for certified organic products in the U.S. However, it is evident that there exists confusion among consumers as to the differences between the terms. Who says so? The Cornucopia Institute does. And considering that I found statements on granola/muesli websites such as “…deliciously organic and natural” and “all natural organic cereal”, they would appear to have a good point.
  • In October of 2011, this group issued a report entitled “Cereal Crimes: How ‘Natural’ Claims Deceive Consumers and Undermine the Organic Label—A Look Down the Cereal and Granola Aisle” (you can see the entire article). Among other points, The Cornucopia Institute notes that “Unlike the organic label, no government agency, certification group or other independent entity fully defines the term ‘natural’ on processed food packages or ensures that the claim has merit.” The report “explores the vast differences between organic cereal and granola products and so-called natural products, which contain ingredients grown on conventional farms where the use of toxic pesticides and genetically engineered organisms is widespread.”

Considering that I found statements on granola/muesli websites such as “…deliciously organic and natural” and “all natural organic cereal”, I’m betting that the Institute has a good point.

I’ll freely admit that there are times when I find the Cornucopia Institute to be a bit alarmist. Having said that, never once have I read a report of theirs without learning something, and this report presents some compelling evidence for their assertion. When companies that advertise “natural” or “all natural” granolas may well be manufacturing products from genetically-modified ingredients and/or those grown with petroleum-based pesticides and fertilizers, when these ingredients may also be treated with solvents such as hexane.

When it’s all perfectly legal, I’d say there need to be legal definitions for “natural” products. The Cornucopia Institute’s report also names the megacorporation owners of some cereal brands, demonstrates that “natural” brands may be priced higher than those that are certified organic, provides some information on commonly-used pesticides/fumigants, and provides a scorecard for a number of cereals and granolas.


Continue To Page 4: Is Granola Healthy?

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