Thursday, January 08, 2009

A Natural?


In the last few months I've started getting all kinds of press releases from public relations people. Mostly they're about local food events or news, most of it not usable on GSNW. But today I got one from a fellow named Dan, a senior account supervisor at an agency called Zeno that, among other clients, represents Pizza Hut.

He felt I needed to know that Pizza Hut has just released a pizza it's calling "The Natural" that has a whopping eight grams of whole grains per slice and has earned the seal of approval from the Whole Grains Council. Part of his press release states that "The Natural is topped with a sauce made from vine-ripened tomatoes and all-natural mozzarella cheese. There are no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Pizza Hut also developed a collection of all-natural toppings for The Natural, including sliced Rustica Sausage, pepperoni, marinated sliced Roma tomatoes, and fire-roasted red peppers. You also can get your pizza topped with a number of traditional toppings that are already natural, such as green peppers, red onions, sliced mushrooms and pineapple."

Which prompted me to respond:

Dear Dan.

Thanks for your press release, but to my readers "all natural" doesn't mean much. Foods grown with pesticides can be considered "natural" as can those developed with genetically modified organisms. One "natural" product listed something called "natural grill flavor" that was made of "tapioca maltodextrin."

As a writer who focuses on local, seasonal and sustainably grown foods and encourages people to eat seasonally whenever possible, the idea that your pizzas have "vine-ripened" tomatoes and are sold year round when all the tomato plants around here are dead is a little weird.

That it features "all-natural" mozzarella cheese doesn't really make me feel comfortable, either, since the ingredients for Kraft Natural Mozzarella lists ingredients like "Inulin (Ingredient Not in Regular Mozzarella Cheese, Sodium Citrate (Ingredient Not in Regular Mozzarella Cheese), Artificial Flavor (Ingredient Not in Regular Mozzarella Cheese), Whey (Ingredient Not in Regular Mozzarella Cheese), Sorbic Acid as a Preservative (Ingredient Not in Regular Mozzarella Cheese), Artificial Color (Ingredient Not in Regular Mozzarella Cheese), Sodium Phosphate (Ingredient Not in Regular Mozzarella Cheese), Vitamin A Palmitate); Potato Starch, Cellulose Powder, and Calcium Sulfate Added to Prevent Caking, Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor)." Doesn't sound very natural, does it? Especially when mozzarella really only requires milk, rennet and salt.

Other questions I'd have are: Is the milk used in the cheese hormone-free? Are the peppers grown without pesticides? Are any of the ingredients grown or raised organically? And that's not even considering the questions about the real cost of cheap food to family farms, health, the environment, etc.

I'll get excited when Pizza Hut starts doing something about the real issues here, including paying attention to the health of its customers and that of the environment instead of finding a new hook to boost sales.

Thanks again.

5 comments:

Josh said...

Zing! Excellent retort. Concise, powerful and to the point.

Poor 'ole Dan had no idea what level of foodie he he went up against.

Well put, Kathleen.

kab said...

Don't know how zingy it is...seems obvious to me! It's just too bad they can get away with that kind of BS. I'll let you know if anything comes back.

Clare Carver said...

amen sister!!! good for you - for calling a spade a spade - I'm in the midst of a big long involved thing around feeding organic food to animals and what local farmers are doings it and which are not and what that really means (other than more than 2x's the feed costs) it's different but the same - names and buzz words don't mean much we need to start being MUCH more vigilant as consumers and ASK questions dig a little etc - so that's for walking the walk-- clare

loved the green eggs post - : )

kab said...

Thanks, Clare. It can seem like tilting at windmills, but sometimes you just have to speak up.

And keep us posted on your research about organic feeding!

Revalani said...

Oh, good for you!