Food and Cuisine

Published on February 24th, 2010 | by Jennifer Lance


Greenwash Alert: Sara Lee Claims “Eco-Grain” Better Than Organic

Going green has evolved from a movement of the crunchy counterculture to a mainstream obsession. Large corporations know there is money to be made from eco-friendly product claims, yet consumers are often left disillusioned by what it really means to be green. “Corporate baking giant” Sara Lee is no exception to greenwashing claiming its “Eco-Grain” is more sustainable than organically grown grains.

Photo by KevinLallier
Sara Lee claims "Eco-Grain" better than organic

Sara Lee claims "Eco-Grain" better than organic

Greenwashing is a term used to describe false eco-friendly marketing assertations meant to trick consumers.  From Barbie to Simple Green, no product is safe from greenwashing.  SourceWatch defines greenwashing as:

Greenwashing is the unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government, a politician or even a non-government organization to create a pro-environmental image, sell a product or a policy, or to try and rehabilitate their standing with the public and decision makers after being embroiled in controversy.

Cornucopia Institute and Common Dreams have accused Sara Lee of greenwashing.  Sara Lee is a “global manufacturer” who claims, “Sara Lee is committed to promoting wellness and nutrition, supporting our communities, and protecting our planet, in a manner consistent with our core values.”  So what’s up with the “Eco-Grain”?  Cornucopia states:

Sara Lee claims that “Eco-GrainTM,” an ingredient actually used in small proportions in its Earthgrains brand breads, is more sustainable than organic grain.  What has been described as a “crass and exploitive marketing ploy” has angered many in the organic community…

The one attribute that Sara Lee uses to differentiate Eco-Grain production is that the farmers, although they use chemical fertilizers, incorporate technology that has reduced fertilizer usage by 15%.  In contrast, as mandated by federal law, organic farmers are required by law to reduce their synthetic fertilizer use by 100%.

Sara Lee’s greenwashing does not affect me personally, as I have not eaten a product by this company since childhood, but it angers me that mainstream consumer are led astray by such claims.  Even with such claims of sustainability, “each Earthgrains 24 ounce loaf contains only 20% flour from Eco-Grain.”  Buyers beware!

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