Hot chocolate may be one of my all time favorite drinks. No Swiss Miss for me, thankyouverymuch. I’m talking real, authentic, organic cocoa mixed with a natural sweetener and real milk from grass-fed cows. Of course, that generally means I make my own. But sometimes, like you, I’m willing to pay for convenience.
I’ll buy a mix.
And if you’ve shopped for a quality mix before, you’ve probably picked up today’s yummy culprit: Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate. That’s because it’s available just about everywhere (including Wal-Mart), and it’s certified Fair-Trade and Organic.
Here’s what the manufacturer claims:
“To make our hot chocolate, we blend our dark chocolate with raw cane sugar and cocoa powder pressed from the same cocoa beans as the chocolate to add extra intensity. When added to hot, fresh milk the result is a cocoa-rich chocolate drink with a creamy froth, a rounded flavor provided by the chocolate, and a balanced sweetness.”
Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate: Ingredients
- Organic Raw Cane Sugar,
- Organic Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder,
- Organic Dark Chocolate Powder (which includes:
- Organic Chocolate Liquor,
- Organic Raw Cane Sugar,
- Organic Cocoa Butter,
- Soy Lecithin,
- Organic Vanilla Extract)
Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate: DECODED
First, let’s stick with the good news. This product is certified Fair-Trade. That means the third-world producers growing these cocoa beans are getting paid a living wage rather than being exploited. Whenever you buy cocoa or coffee, you’ll want to look for the Fair-Trade certification label.
And check out all those organic ingredients! These are GMO-free, and grown according to organic principles without synthetic pesticides, herbicides, or other chemicals.
So now for the hard-hitting bit of news. Notice that soy lecithin? It’s not certified organic. And, since roughly 91% of all soybeans planted in the U.S. are genetically-modified, this doesn’t bode well. Chances are, this is GMO-soy lecithin.
Of course, there’s a small chance that it isn’t. Perhaps the company claims something about GMO-ingredients on their website!
On both the UK and Canadian websites, Green & Black’s has this to say when asked if their products are free of genetically-modified (GM) ingredients:
Yes – as all of our products are certified by the Soil Association, this ensures no genetically modified (GM) ingredients are used in their production.
But guess what’s on their U.S. website?
Nothing. No questions about GMOs, and no answers either. This, dear readers, is industrial food in action.
You see, in the U.S., Green & Black’s isn’t certified by the Soil Association, but by the USDA. And did you know that the USDA regulations allow wiggle room for genetically-modified ingredients? According to these rules, a product labeled “organic” must contain at least 95% organic ingredients. If the product is labeled “made with organic ingredients,” it must contain 70% organic ingredients. That means that when you see an “organic” label on a package, there can easily be genetically-modified ingredients inside it so long as they don’t add up to more than 5% of the final product.
The only way to completely avoid GMOs is to purchase products that are labeled “100% organic,” or from brands that are part of the Non-GMO Project.
I sent an email to Green & Black’s to find out if their U.S. product line contained GMOs, and they haven’t contacted me back.
Green & Black’s Organic Hot Chocolate: THE VERDICT
(At least until we hear directly from the company that their U.S. product line is also GMO-free.)
So, what should you use instead?
Of course, the best option is to make your own hot cocoa from organic, fair-trade cocoa powder and your natural sweetener of choice.
If you want a good store bought brand, I’ve enjoyed Native USA Organic Cocoa Mix before. It’s 100% organic, GMO-free, and sustainably produced.
Want Your Labels Decoded?
In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!