Photo via Flickr user Mike Mozart
The demonization of carbs in the modern era has gone so far that we're hoarding gluten-free products without even knowing why, and salivating over online photos of pasta—the forbidden fruit—as though we're looking at porn.And then, to make matters even more complicated for Paleo-be-damned carb-lovers, there's the total opacity surrounding what constitutes "all-natural" and healthy food, especially when it comes to labelling. Even the Food and Drug administration is still figuring all of that out.
So it was only a matter of time until even the most innocuously wheaty little snacks would be under fire. Like, say, the squares of joy known as Cheez-Its.A new class action complaint filed against Kellogg—the parent company of Cheez-Its—alleges that the "Whole Grain" version of the crackers are "false and misleading," and that the crackers are nutritionally identical to conventional Cheez-Its. The basis of the suit is that the primary ingredient in Whole Grain Cheez-Its is enriched white flour, which is refined and made from wheat that loses much of its nutritional value during refining and processing."Cheez-It Whole Grain crackers are virtually indistinct nutritionally from Cheez-It Original crackers," the complaint states. "They contain only one gram of dietary fiber per serving. Neither Whole Grain variety increases whole grains beyond half, as recommend by the [2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans].
"Thus, Cheez-It Whole Grain crackers are not predominantly whole grain, despite the reasonable expectations that Kellogg has created by distinguishing Cheez-It Whole Grain crackers from other crackers in the 'Cheez-It' product line by denominating them 'WHOLE GRAIN.'"Perhaps more shocking than the allegations in the lawsuit is the idea that some poor souls were eating Cheez-Its—"Whole Grain" or otherwise—under the belief that what they were eating something nutritionally sound. These aren't kale chips or chia bars, people; they're geometric shapes made out of salty, processed deliciousness. False advertising laws aside, why anyone would think that cheese-flavored crackers should be taken down for being anything other than cheese-flavored crackers is perhaps a bit misled by their own quest for healthfulness.
That being said, the nutrition facts for conventional and Whole Grain Cheez-Its do look… pretty similar.You get 2 percent more of your recommended daily fiber from the Whole Grain crackers, but you mysteriously trade it for 2 percent of your daily fill of calcium.But the plaintiffs of the lawsuit—which, by the way, are three random moms—argue that they "would not have purchased or paid more for Cheez-It Whole Grain crackers had they known the product contains more refined grain than whole grain."In a statement, the Center for Science in the Public Interest's litigation director Maia Kats calls the "whole grain" crackers "effectively a junk food."Kris Charles, Kellogg Company spokesperson, offered the following comment to MUNCHIES regarding the complaint: "While we don't normally comment on pending litigation, this suit is completely without merit. Our Cheez-It Whole Grain labels are accurate and in full compliance with FDA regulations. We stand behind our foods and our labels."
Here's the pretty amazing kicker: though it has put forth "guidelines" and recommendations regarding the matter, the FDA doesn't even have enforceable rules on what can or can't be called a "whole grain" product. A "100-percent whole grain" product, sure. But when whole grains are merely included in the food item—rather than being the only type of grain present—things get hazier.A 2006 FDA document for industry and staff says, "FDA has not defined any claims concerning the grain content of foods. However, the agency has established standards of identity for various types of cereal flours and related products… including a standard of identity for 'whole wheat flour' and 'whole durum flour.'" Other government organizations, such as the USDA, have some stricter criteria in place, but they don't concern food labels in the same way as FDA regulations.So what does this anti-Cheez-It brigade want, anyway? The usual: "monetary relief," and for Cheez-It to stop marketing its barely-sort-of-whole-grain crackers as such.There's probably a better solution to all of this, though: Why isn't everyone just eating the far superior White Cheddar Cheez-Its, anyway?
READ MORE: A Journey to the Dark Side of Bread