Natural Energy Bar Market ‘Rife With Gimmicky Substitutes,’ Says New Report

Natural Energy Bar Market 'Rife With Gimmicky Substitutes,' Says New Report
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A new report released today by the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group, identifies misleading labels and questionable health benefits of popular snack and energy bars including best-selling brands Clif Bar and Lara Bar.

The report and scorecard, “Raising the Bar, Choosing Healthy Snack Bars versus Gimmicky Junk Food,” reveals leading organic and natural brands use “cheap, conventional ingredients instead of creating nutritive products that qualify for the USDA organic label,” the group notes, citing “industry-friendly loopholes” that allow bar manufacturers to use questionable ingredients, such as hexane-extracted soy, while still qualifying for the USDA “made with” organic ingredients category.

“The highly profitable snack bar industry is rife with gimmicky substitutes, such as protein isolates, instead of whole food ingredients,” says the report’s lead author, Linley Dixon, PhD, chief scientist at Cornucopia.

“With the exception of certified organic bars, many products add protein isolates processed with the neurotoxin solvent hexane, a byproduct of the gasoline refinement industry,” added Dixon. “Hexane-extracted ingredients, like conventional soy protein isolate, are common in products that are labeled ‘made with’ organic ingredients. An intentional loophole in the USDA organic standards allows for the use of ingredients that are extracted using volatile solvents in ‘made with’ organic products (a process explicitly prohibited in products qualifying to display the USDA organic logo).”

The report highlights the benefits of certified organic products and those made with whole ingredients including nuts, seeds, and dried fruit, and that avoid added sugars, gums, flours, protein isolates, or preservatives.

“The good news is that discriminating shoppers now have a new mobile-friendly web-based tool, released with the report, to help them weed through product labels and separate the best bars from greenwashed marketing hype,” stated Mark A. Kastel, Cornucopia’s Codirector and Senior Farm Policy Analyst. “With so many snack bar options on the shelves, we want to make it easier to purchase truly nutritious, high quality products from ethical brands.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites OrganicAuthority.com and EcoSalon.com, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better. www.jillettinger.com.