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THE NIBBLE’s Gourmet News & Views

Trends, Products & Items Of Note In The World Of Specialty Foods

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NEWS: Sara Lee “Organics” Controversy

Boo, Sara Lee!

According to corporate and governmental watchdog, The Cornucopia Institute, a nonprofit farm policy research group, Sara Lee is trying to pull one over on consumers.

The popular supermarket brand has launched a marketing campaign for its EarthGrains bread, using misleading environmental-friendly catchphrases with the hope of attracting people who want to buy organics because they’re better for the environment and healthier to eat.

Sara Lee claims that “Eco-Grain™”—its trademarked ingredient that comprises just 20% of the grain in EarthGrains breads—is more sustainable than organic grain. This is not true, and the Cornucopia Institute has created a comparison chart to detail the differences.



Sara Lee’s EarthGrains line. Not particularly
earth-friendly. Photo courtesy Sara Lee.

According to Charlotte Vallaeys, a Food and Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute, “Sara Lee is doing practically nothing to ensure its ingredients are truly ecologically produced. It’s a crass example of a corporation trying to capitalize on the valuable market cachet of organic, while intentionally misleading consumers—without making any meaningful commitment to protect the environment or produce safer and more nutritious food.”

  • The farmers who grow Eco-Grain differ very little from most conventional grain producers who use petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides.
  • Organic farmers, on the other hand, use natural fertilizers, compost and crop rotations to enrich the long-term health of the soil, without damaging the environment or potentially contaminating the food produced.
  • Sara Lee’s eco-claim for Eco-Grain production is that their farmers incorporate technology that has reduced chemical fertilizer usage by 15%. That means they’re using 85% chemical fertilizers.
  • In contrast, as mandated by federal law, organic farmers are required by law to reduce their synthetic fertilizer use by 100%—i.e., 0% chemical fertilizers.
  • Plus, as Cornucopia’s Vallaeys points out that, “Even if their new fancy wheat were truly superior, each EarthGrains 24 ounce loaf contains only 20% flour from Eco-Grain, with the remainder of the bread’s wheat coming from regular, conventional wheat. The total reduction in chemical fertilizer use in a loaf of EarthGrains bread therefore amounts to a meager 3%.” According to a Sara Lee press release, “the brand will look to increase the percentage of Eco-Grain in its products.”
  • To educate consumers about EarthGrains bread made with Eco-Grain wheat, Sara Lee launched a consumer marketing program called “The Plot to Save the Earth, One Field at a Time.“ The campaign includes print, TV, radio and digital advertising, public relations, social media and point-of-sale materials that take a whimsical approach to catch consumers’ eyes with tag lines like, “How your turkey sandwich can help preserve the earth.”

    “If advertising executives could be charged with malpractice, this would be a major felony,” said Mark A. Kastel, Co-Director at The Cornucopia Institute.

    Now that you’re aware, make your own decisions. If you want to help the environment and eat pesticide-free food, look for the USDA certified organic seal.

    Sara Lee also owns the brands Ambi Pur, Ball Park, Douwe Egberts, Hillshire Farm, Jimmy Dean, Kiwi, Sanex and Senseo.

    Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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