03/20/2014 09:50 EDT | Updated 05/20/2014 05:59 EDT

I Fought Misleading Food Advertising - And Won

A couple of weeks ago this picture was being shared on Facebook from a COBS Bread store counter card:


What initially drew me in to this COBS Bread advertisement, taken in one of their Calgary locations, was the big lettering stating:


That caught my attention right away---wayta go, COBS! Sourcing homegrown wheat for the use in your bakeries and displaying it proudly in your advertisement. Then, if you look below that, is when it turned sour for me:

"The flour used in our bakeries is grown and milled in Alberta and is GMO-free."

I have said it before and I'll say it again: I cannot stand this type of advertising and labeling---it is misleading. Why is it misleading, you ask? Because there is no GMO wheat on the market or in our food chain and food labels should not confuse a customer.

I immediately went to the COBS Bread Facebook page to share the photo and to ask and understand why they chose to use this in their marketing. I also tweeted them. COBS responded to me on Twitter immediately and I was happy to see them interacting with me on Facebook too. By the next day before noon, COBS wrote this on the thread I started on their Facebook page:

"Hi everyone, thank you all for your comments. The most important message we intended to convey in this counter card is that 100% of our wheat is sourced from Alberta farms. Regarding the messaging about GMO-free, we are constantly asked by our customers whether or not our wheat is GMO. We had no intention to have a position on GMO-free or not and were proivding an answer a question that customers were asking. Based on your feedback, we will revise the positioning of this message to be more educational, as we intended. Our main purpose was to emphasize that all of our flour is sourced from Alberta farms."

Hats off to you, COBS! I agree that more education needs to be done. Supporting local Alberta wheat farmers and stating it proudly in your stores advertisements is very encouraging. If there are customers that have concerns about whether or not GMOs are used in their bakery products, perhaps a simple "no" would be a sufficient answer, and the customers who are more concerned can talk to management or their great social media team. I truly believe that this type of fear-marketing just strikes up angst and panic where there need not be. By no means is COBS in the same category as other brands who have advertised in a far worse ways, but it is completely unnecessary (to me) to advertise anything GMO-free; especially products that don't contain GMOs.

Someone on Twitter thought I was being too critical of COBS and that they were just doing good business practice, giving the customer what they want, and trying to make a profit. Well, I'm a COBS customer too, and one of the Alberta wheat farms that they potentially source from, and I want them to be honest in their advertising. Many of you will say that they are telling the truth---the wheat they source is GMO-free. Correct, but it's a moot point and plays off of consumer misinformation on a very controversial topic. In a world where conventional food is criticized so often, and when I'm sure COBS has gotten questions whether or not their products are gluten-free (they're not), I would hope COBS will take note of this incidence with me and be pro-active in taking the role to better inform their customers, as I'm sure they don't appreciate how gluten is vilified in our food chain today.

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