The Upside of "Organic" Junk Food

Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with potato chips for the predictable reasons: They're salty, deep-fried and that makes it pretty much impossible to eat just one. But the temptation to toss a bag into my grocery cart fades a bit when I see an "organic" label on the front. For me, the strategy to market junk food as "organic" totally backfires. It just reminds me that potato chips — organic or not — are supremely unhealthy.

For the past few years, we've seen a widespread trend to greenwash all kinds of junk food, such as chips, sugary cereals, breakfast bars, cookies, and all kinds of other junk food has grown. Walk into any grocery store, and you'll spot all kinds of pre-prepared food that sport the "organic" label.

According to an article in the Buffalo News, these organic — or should we say "organic-ish" — snacks and prepared foods are growing increasingly popular. Read the labels, however, and it's clear that trendy packaging — not health or nutritional value — is the real focus.

That's the core of greenwashing. But, masking a junk food with labels that say "all-natural" or"organic ingredients" doesn't necessarily make them healthy. The promise of health and natural ingredients might be a big part of their appeal, but more often than not, a closer look quickly reminds me to find something that's geniunely healthy.

Greenwashed products have some common traits. Among them:

  • Potato chips have the same fat and calorie counts as regular chips, but they come in earthy-looking brown bags, rather than shiny foil bags. I just wish they're weren't so tasty.
  • Childhood favorites — shaped like fish or charms — sport labels like "healthy" or "all-natural." In other words, if it seems to be good to be true...
  • Wheat sheafs, dairy barns, forest foot-paths and other images to evoke mother nature are on foodstuffs that are mostly made from ingredients you and I can't pronounce.

It's easy to get a bit overwhelmed and confused at the grocery store these days. It's hard to tell truth from hype. That's why I like seeing claims like "organic" and "healthy" splashed cross junk food.

For me, at least, it sets off an alarm and brings me back to my senses.

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