Is Jell-O’s new line as ‘Simply Good’ as it claims?


Kraft recently launched a new line of Jell-O gelatin and pudding mixes with the proclamation that their “Simply Good” products are free of GMO sugar, artificial dyes, and chemicals such as BHA.

While it’s important to realize that this new set of treat mixes does not replace the classic Jell-O gelatin and pudding lines, and that its initial offerings are significantly fewer in variety, it does mark a notable step in the trend of monolithic food giants adopting a natural foods model. 

{mosads}As for whether the “Simply Good” line is simply good enough, that depends what you’re comparing it to. In relation to its classic line, “Simply Good” is practically a godsend. It utilizes actual foods rather than chemical food flavors and is colored with food-based ingredients like turmeric.

However, it still contains many ingredients that render it far inferior to actual health food brands of gelatin and pudding mixes, such as mono-and diglycerides, modified cornstarch (which is presumably GMO), and tetrasodium pyrophosphate. You won’t be seeing “Simply Good” on the shelves of Whole Foods, but for those who would never set foot in a health food store anyway, this line is indeed a much sounder choice. It makes more sense to compare the new Jello to the old rather than to its smaller brand counterparts, and in that regard, this line is definitely a good thing.

What motivated Kraft to jump on this path, and will other brands follow suit? Consumers have led the way, realizing (often through their own research) that their now all too common ailments like IBS, leaky gut, celiac disease and ADHD can usually be attributed to food additives and low food quality.

Consumers have a twofold reason to want companies to change their ingredients: they want to feel better, and once they’ve recovered from their ailments, they don’t want them recreated by way of their dietary choices.

As awareness grows thanks to internet campaigns, blogs and progressively more natural food companies manufacturing healthier alternatives to commercial products, that awareness translates into wiser purchases; it only makes sense that Kraft and other major food and beverage companies who have experienced notorious drops in profit in recent years do whatever it takes to keep their crowns as industrial kings of food consumption.

While they likely didn’t anticipate that things like internet campaigns would gain momentum and force them to change their ingredients, the success has been tangible: In 2015, a petition by “Food Babe” Vani Hari led to Kraft dropping artificial dyes from its ubiquitous macaroni and cheese. The petition garnered over 365,000 signatures and the story was covered everywhere from the Washington Post to CBS.

Kraft is far from alone in this migration away from the artificial and GMO ingredients. The more we discover that food dyes cause everything from behavioral issues to cancer, that gluten intolerance issues such as autoimmune illness celiac is caused by the glyphosate pesticide (aka Roundup) added to our crops and that the BPA and other chemicals used to line cans, bottles and boxes can ravage our endocrine systems, the more we demand food that is safe, not perilous, to eat.

A 2015 blog post by General Mills announced they were committed to removing artificial colors and flavors from their cereals within the next two to three years; Taco Bell removed high fructose corn syrup and palm oil from its offerings in 2015; Subway will remove artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives by 2017 — and that’s just the tip of the food giant iceberg.

In addition to changing their own ingredients, which is a time-consuming and costly affair, food industry leaders are responding to public outcry for more natural food products by buying up small health-oriented food manufacturers as never before. It’s a move that could be seen as “If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em,” and it isn’t necessarily in consumers’ best interest.

One of the first natural companies to be purchased, Tom’s of Maine under the ownership of Colgate-Palmolive after 2005 maintains that all changes the brand makes in packaging and ingredients are in the best interest of consumers and the environment–but public opinion, as evidenced in their product reviews, shows a lack of trust. The company is referred to as a “sellout” on assorted platforms.

The issue grows even more complex when you factor in animal welfare, as with Spam maker Hormel, which was caught abusing it livestock on video in 2015, purchasing Applegate Farms, a brand with products that tout “certified humane” on their “natural and organic” labels. These acquisitions are generally met unkindly by health food shoppers, and it is tough to say if the mainstream access to what were once higher quality food items is worth the ways in which said items suffer once purchased.

It is, of course, excellent that industrial food giants are removing what never should have been in their products to begin with. Does that make them as healthy as homemade, or even as healthy as their organic commercial counterparts? Definitely not, and as always, the best answer to any question involving what to eat involves ditching all of the mixes and getting into your own kitchen with real foods.

A one pound bag of grass fed, organic gelatin — which is anti-inflammatory and gut healing, while the grain fed version used by food manufacturers is not — can be purchased for under $20 on Amazon and will yield 150 cups, or 300 servings, of gelled Jell-O style dessert. Even factoring in sweetener and fruit or fruit juice, that’s less money per serving than Jell-O or its natural competitors.

It takes about the same amount of time to make as with a mix, and it definitely doesn’t contain tetrasodium pyrophosphate … and what is that anyway? It’s a chemical used for emulsifying, as well as to remove rust, clean pipes, and dye wool. In animals, it’s been shown to cause kidney damage, metabolic acidosis, and other assorted health problems.

Good on ya, Jell-O, for removing artificial dyes and GMO sugars, but could your next step please be to not include any toxic additives in your “natural” products?        

Ariane Resnick is a special diet chef, certified nutritionist, and bestselling cookbook author. She writes articles on nutrition and wellness, and develops recipes for brands and websites using whole food, healthful ingredients to accommodate multifaceted restriction.

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill. 

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