Vani Hari, a.k.a. the Food Babe, a blogger and food activist, has come under fire lately for some of the campaigns she’s led pressuring big restaurant chains and food manufacturers to eliminate artificial or just hard-to-pronounce ingredients from their products. This nutrition “guru,” many critics have pointed out, has no background in nutrition or food sciences. She’s been described by scientists and nutritionists alternately as a “quack,” a “fear mongerer,” “food terrorist,” and just plain “full of s***.”
“She’s well intentioned, but there’s a problem when she scares her readership by giving them misleading information,” Joseph Perrone, PhD, chief scientific officer for the Center for Accountability in Science, said recently in a Health.com post revealing a handful of “Food Babe Myths You Shouldn’t Believe.” “Almost every chemical sounds dangerous when you pronounce it.”
Still, data collected in the 2015 global Nielsen survey about healthy eating trends points out that consumers are increasingly seeking “fresh, natural and minimally processed foods.” For instance, more than four in 10 consumers say that it’s “very important” that the food they eat use all-natural ingredients, free of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and containing no artificial flavors or colors.
Lately, Big Food seems to be getting the message and is making changes dictated by shifting consumer concerns. Players ranging from McDonald’s to Kraft to Heineken have recently announced changes in the ingredients of their products—sometimes with tweaks to their most iconic and successful foods.
And this is a trend that appears to be picking up steam. “I think it’s really just the beginning. It’s only going to get more intense,” Ken Cook, president and co-founder of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit advocacy group focused on health and the environment, told the Des Moines Register. “This is still the country where the customer is always right. I think companies rushing to clean up their labels to respond to consumer demand, like McDonald’s and others, that’s an indication of the direction.”
Here are 11 examples of changes, or planned changes, to ingredients in well-known foods: