It seems Kraft Foods is following other food companies by adjusting their recipes, making them more appealing to the ever-growing health-conscious families of America. Kraft Foods has recently removed sonic acid from two of their sliced cheese varieties, American and American White; sonic acid is often used as an additive for rubber and an intermediate for lubricants. One other company that has jumped on the health food bandwagon is Subway. The sandwich company recently announced that they will remove azodicarbonamide from their bread recipe after it was found to be an ingredient in rubber soles of shoes and yoga mats. This came after an online petition went viral obtaining over 78,000 signatures. While many are praising the companies for their steps towards giving consumers healthier and more natural options, some are asking if it is enough.
Kraft Foods has recently given some of its products a makeover, inside and out. The new look markets many of their products as containing more holistic and natural ingredients, but some nutritionists say that is far from the truth. Kraft Foods has many brands, and their core sales come from their beverages as well as their dairy, snack, confectionery and convenience food items, most of which contain preservatives and artificial flavors. While the American and White American cheese slices may have dropped one of their preservative ingredients, there are still many products that Kraft Foods produces and distributes that are just as bad, if not worse. One product in particular, Cheez Whiz, is what Michael Moss, author of Salt, Sugar and Fat, calls a pseudo-cheese, meaning it is anything but actual cheese.
Cheez Whiz was originally invented to be a faster and more convenient alternative to Welsh rarebit, a popular cheese spread that takes over a half hour to make in a fairly laborious process. The problem is that Cheez Whiz doesn’t contain any actual cheese. Kraft Foods adjusted the recipe and removed the ingredient sometime before 2001 but never informed the public. When a spokesperson from Kraft Foods was contacted, she stated that Cheez Whiz does in fact still contain cheese but when asked how much, she declined to say. For some, it makes sense from a business perspective. Food companies are constantly trying to reduce production costs to obtain higher revenue, but unfortunately, sometimes the victim is the unknowing customer. In this case, it is much cheaper to use milk protein concentrate instead of the more natural milk powder. Also, cheese has to be stored in order to become usable so costs are cut drastically if cheese is omitted from the ingredients altogether, as companies save on storage space and the product can be made faster.
Americans now eat three times the amount of cheese they did in the 1970s, which some nutritionists believe is a factor in growing obesity rates. One element that has influenced the amount of cheese people eat is how the company markets the product. Cheese is constantly getting reinvented in different forms so that it is no longer a rare treat and it can be added to almost any snack or meal. Natural cheese, not pseudo-cheese, is healthy in small portions but companies like Kraft Foods doesn’t follow dietary recomendations when marketing their products. Cheese is everywhere because the companies want consumers to believe it is a food that can, and should, be eaten at any time.
Cheez Whiz is not the only problem. Crystal Light has recently come under scrutiny after CSPI, Center for Science in the Public Interest, started looking into filing a lawsuit because the company markets some of its Crystal Light products as natural when in reality they contain maltodextrin, a synthetic and also butylated hydroxyanisole, a preservative. Back in 2007, Kraft Foods was also sued for using the term “natural” on their Capri Sun label to which the company used the argument that they meant natural in the way the flavor tastes, not the ingredients.
A spokesperson for Kraft Foods stated “our products are clearly and accurately labeled with information that is both truthful and helpful for consumers.” The problem is that the US Food and Drug Administration does not have a clear definition of the word “natural” so it is a grey area with loopholes that companies can use to draw in health conscious consumers, exploiting them by making them believe they are buying products that contain natural ingredients. A recent poll determined that the number of consumers that believe in the natural food labels they see on products in the grocery store is 77 percent. This is unfortunate because consumers are often deluded into thinking they are making healthier choices when it may not be the case. It is also unfair to consumers when companies adjust recipes for products they buy regularly without informing them of the change. This happens more often than consumers realize, as there is no law forcing companies to let consumers know when ingredients in their recipes have been changed, even if it means adding preservatives that no longer classify them as natural food products.
With over 126 brands owned and distributed by Kraft Foods, some of which contain foods that aren’t the natural products they claim to be, there is a lot of work to be done. As the company works on adjusting the ingredients in their recipes and organizations such as CSPI push for more transparent labeling, consumers will be able to make better and more informed choices about the foods they eat.
By Lian Morrison