Friday, May 22, 2009

Newsflash: OREOS ARE VEGAN!... maybe.

Yeah, for real. I don't know when they took the whey out, but at least in the United States they sure as hell did. Here is a listing of their ingredients from the Nabisco website:

Ingredients: SUGAR, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID), HIGH OLEIC CANOLA OIL AND/OR PALM OIL AND/OR CANOLA OIL, AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SALT, SOY LECITHIN (EMULSIFIER), VANILLIN - AN ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CHOCOLATE. CONTAINS: WHEAT, SOY.

See what I mean? The only even vaguely questionable item is the sugar - we can't really know if they're using white sugar that was processed with bone char, and while this process doesn't leave residues of animal products in the end product, the whole using-animal-bones thing definitely doesn't fit into the definition of "vegan". So if you are a vegan that is concerned about this, you could call the company and try to find out (and let us know what they say!!). I'd love to tell you how, but oddly enough I can't find a phone number on their website. Personally, I'm shocked.

The thing is though, I think white sugar is more expensive... so I doubt they're using it unless they really have to. And why would they have to? Maybe for the "creme" center... Oh, the mysteries of mass production cookies. Anyway, this is one of those "how vegan" issues, akin to "Processed on equipment that also processes dairy and egg products". It's impossible to be absolutely 100% vegan all the time. Even raw vegetables aren't completely vegan if you think hard enough about it - tilling the land kills burrowing animals, and even organic farming uses some pesticides.
You have to draw a line somewhere or you'll lose your freaking mind.

I'd continue on to write a quipy, clever, adorable blog post about the wonders and horrors of the oreo cookie... but Vegansaurus has done it for me. Enjoy!

* * *

Wait a damn minute. Hold the phone. Do you see it? Down there at the bottom, the very last ingredient - "chocolate". Since when is that one ingredient? See, now I recall seeing this on the package in the grocery store, and being aggravated and perplexed by it. Well, let's see what Nabisco (or, actually, parent company Kraft) has to say about it.
I think I'll write an email! (Navigates annoying website that makes it difficult to find page on which to actually send email, finally succeeds, writes following:)
I have just looked up the ingredients of original Nabisco Oreo cookies on your website. They are listed as follows:

Ingredients: SUGAR, ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID), HIGH OLEIC CANOLA OIL AND/OR PALM OIL AND/OR CANOLA OIL, AND/OR SOYBEAN OIL, COCOA (PROCESSED WITH ALKALI), HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, CORNSTARCH, LEAVENING (BAKING SODA AND/OR CALCIUM PHOSPHATE), SALT, SOY LECITHIN (EMULSIFIER), VANILLIN - AN ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, CHOCOLATE. CONTAINS: WHEAT, SOY.

The last ingredient listed is "chocolate". However, "chocolate" is not one ingredient, but is rather almost always a group of ingredients such as cocoa mass, cocoa butter, and sugar. My question for you, then, comes in two parts.
1) what does your "chocolate" contain?
2) why is Nabisco allowed to simply list "chocolate" instead of listing its constituent ingredients, as it does with enriched flour?
While we wait for a response, a micro-background on Kraft. For the longest time, this well known wholesome family kind of brand was owned by Altria, also known as Phillip Morris - yep, the cigarette guys. But in 2007 the company was "spun off" and is now independent and publicly owned. Given my pitifully small understanding of how the business world works, what I can gather from this is that all shares of Kraft were sold so that the parent company Altria no longer had a stake in it. So in a way it's not quite as evil a company as it used to be... except that it's still an enormous multi-national corporation that makes billions every year by peddling overprocessed chemicals and animal byproducts, frequently to children. (Whoops!)

One immediate effect of figuring out how to email them: I got some contact info, in case any of you want to follow up on that sugar thing:

Phone:

1-800-567-KRAFT (5723)

Mail:

Kraft Foods Global, Inc.
Global Consumer Relations
1 Kraft Court
Glenview, IL 60025

(Plays Jeopardy! theme song in head... for a day and a half.)

Ah! Alright, a response. Oh, you're gonna love this.
Hi Melissa,

Thank you for visiting http://www.kraftfoods.com/ .

Chocolate is a blend of specially selected cocoa beans, roasted, crushed and ground. All of our label information is determined with great care and with much attention given to very detailed government labeling regulations

We make changes to our product formulas on a regular basis. Ingredient lists can become outdated very quickly, so, we don't maintain them.

We do have an online tool that lists the label information on some of our products. Just visit www.kraftfoods.com and then click on the product information tab.

Please remember that the best source of information for you is the ingredient statement on the product that you have purchased.

If you haven’t done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

Kim McMiller
Associate Director, Consumer Relations
Well there you have it folks - the completely non-responsive answer we've been waiting for. Chocolate is made from cocoa beans - did you know?! I just can't believe it. So, uh, do they mean cocoa? And if they do, why don't they list that? Notice how they conveniently ignore my second question. My favorite part? "We make changes to our product formulas on a regular basis. Ingredient lists can become outdated very quickly, so, we don't maintain them." Wow, they really know how to engender confidence, don't they? I guess it just goes to show exactly how much you can trust large corporations. (How far can you throw a multi-national conglomerate, anyway?)

Now that we've got all the information it seems they're going to give... well, I believe I'll be sticking to Newman's O's, for so many reasons. But, as with all things, the choice is yours. Just make sure you're making your decision with all of the information - not just what's most convenient to believe.

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