General Mills is asking the FDA to come up with a concrete definition of whole grain. Hooray! This is something that should have been established a while ago. But wait–why is a company that loudly touts that the majority of their sugary cereals are whole grain already looking for a definition? Do they actually care about the health of their consumers, or is this just a ploy for them to do the bare minimum to get people to buy sugar and GMO laden cereals and still be able to make a healthy claim?
Whole grain shouldn’t be hard to define–there’s usually three parts involved; the bran, the germ and the endosperm. While there is no binding guidance as to what the FDA considers whole grain, the seeming rule in place is that anything labeled 100% whole grain must contain all three parts of the grain. That’s a no brainer.
However, there are two whole grain stamps–100% and basic. 100% falls into the FDA recommendation. The basic stamp, however, allows refined grains and not-necessarily-in-proportion additions of bran or germ. What General Mills wants is the FDA to finalize their guidelines. What they’re asking for is:
- At least 8 grams of whole grain per 30 gram serving for basic whole grain statements
- At least 16 grams of whole grain per 30 gram serving for statements such as “100% whole grain”
- All three components must be present in natural proportions
“Oh, that’s not so bad–they’re actually trying to do some good.” You’re probably thinking. Yes, but there is a small catch. As it turns out, General Mills wants to shoot down a proposal by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) that would require posting the percentage of whole grains.
As I’m sure many of you suspect, many whole grain claims are misleading. Without having to reveal the percentage of whole grain, companies can claim whole grains with only 8 grams of whole grains in a 30-gram serving. This is 27% whole grain, meaning 73% not whole grain. So, do you really think General Mills’ Big G cereals are 100% whole grain? Probably not. By not posting the percentages, this allows companies to tout that their product is whole grain even though it may be a small percentage, allowing consumers to think that they’re being at least somewhat healthy while eating Lucky Charms.
I do happen to agree with General Mills on the part that the FDA needs to act on these guidelines. However, I also agree with the CSPI that percentages would be nice, to know what you’re really getting. What’s your take, LivLunatics? Is General Mills the bad guy, or are they still a big corporation trying to pull a fast one on the general public?