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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

A little label and its lies

As you may know, soy milk is the vegetarian alternative to cow’s milk. For years, the plain flavored Silk Soymilk that comes in red cartons was a healthy alternative to milk from cows, as it was lower in fat and lacked the recombinant bovine growth hormones pumped into cattle to boost dairy production. One can even purchase quart size containers of Silk brand soy milk here at the U-Mart. 

Silk boasted an organic label meaning the product contained no genetically modified soybeans. The word “”organic”” even appeared on the carton below the logo to ensure customers of the quality of the product. Debates constantly fire back and forth arguing whether or not genetically modified foodstuffs are dangerous to human health. And while some claim that there is no concrete evidence either way, some people choose to play it safe anyway and consume strictly organic food. For this reason Silk Soymilk became popular amongst the health conscience population.

The problem is, some Silk products are no longer organic.  WhiteWave, a pioneer in the organics market and former owners of the Silk Soymilk line, used 100 percent organic soybeans to make their products. However, in 2002, Dean Foods, a corporation that has little loyalty to the organic market and has more interest in what is cheapest for them to manufacture and sell, purchased the Silk line. Finding organic soybeans a bit too expensive for the revenue they wanted to generate, Dean Foods began introducing lines of Silk Soymilk that replaced the ever reliable “”organic”” label with the word “”natural.”” So what’s the big deal?

According to Waylon Lewis of the elephantjournal.com “”natural — is a generally meaningless deceptive term.”” Natural soybeans are not the same as organic soybeans. All crops are natural because they come from nature but this doesn’t necessarily mean they are organic. Natural soybeans, as described by the elephantjournal.com, are nothing more than “”conventional soybeans”” meaning they are genetically modified. In other words, natural soybeans are the exact opposite of organic soybeans. These conventional soybeans are much cheaper than organic, which is great for Dean Foods, not so great for organic consumers.

One would assume that with this change Dean Foods would make a televised announcement warning people who strictly consume organic products, and they would change the packaging drastically to avoid confusion. And one would think that the Silk products would be removed from the organic sections of grocery stores and natural markets. But why risk losing a good chunk of your customers who buy organic when you can stealthily change the ingredients, replace one little word, and continue selling Silk as if nothing ever happened?            

Mark Kastel, senior farm policy analyst at the Cornucopia Institute noted that Dean Foods “”(w)ith their soy products, the appearance of their packaging and UPC codes remained the same.””  This means the change was made quiet clandestinely with the red cartons remaining the same but the “”organic”” lettering being removed and replaced with “”natural.”” Vigilant organic consumers should pay closer attention to the wording on Silk products but it’s easy to understand why they would be less than attentive about checking labels on a product that they relied on as organic for years. Dean Foods certainly wasn’t making any grand announcements to spark their suspicions.

In recent trips to the grocery store Silk Soymilk still retains it’s position in the organic section of the store despite its inorganic ingredients. Dean Foods: it seems a bit like you’re trying to scam customers. If Silk is no longer organic why not take the label off completely instead of replacing it with a confusing word such as “”natural.””  Some people may find the product in organic sections of their grocery store, see the “”natural”” label and assume it means organic and purchase the product. Pretty sneaky. Better yet, why not just label it “”inorganic”” just to be honest? Consumers have a right to know what a product is and what it is not. 

— Arianna Carter is a junior majoring in Creative Writing. She can be reached

at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.      

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