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Organic Consumers Association

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Op-Ed: Will the Real ‘Whole Grain’ Please Stand Up?

A recent test determined that many products labelled '100 percent whole grain' don't contain anywhere near that amount.

Labels are key to navigating today’s grocery aisles. And yet, when it comes to finding whole grain foods, the current labels are failing us. In fact, there are no words, symbols, signs, or labels that can guarantee the food on the shelf is 100 percent whole grain, even if it says it is.

Most of us bring a healthy amount of skepticism to our consumer decisions these days. When it comes to whole wheat, Dr. David Killilea of the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute—along with a committee of farmers, scientists, journalists, bakers, and millers lead by Community Grains—wanted to bring hard science to the conversation.

So, he developed a new biochemical analysis to determine precisely how much whole grain flour is contained in a given food and then applied it to a handful of name-brand products. The results, published in The Journal of Food Science, showed that national brand “whole grain” pastas can contain as little as 9 percent whole grain and national brand flours labeled “whole grain” can contain as little as 60 percent.

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