Cheezy-poofs marketed as "organic carrot stix"

We just got back from a pleasant morning at the London Zoo in Regent's Park with the baby. Just before we left, we stopped at the cafe for a snack. I took care of the kid while Alice lined up to buy some goodies. As the queue moved along, she grabbed a packet marked "Carrot Stix" thinking that they must be, you know, carrot sticks. Or maybe dried carrot sticks. Something that was, approximately speaking, food.

After all, the company that makes it is called "Organix." And they have a "No junk promise." And they say that there's "reduced salt" and "reduced fat."

Wait, what?

I didn't know carrots had fat or salt.

In fact, they don't.

That's because "Carrot Stix" are not, in fact, carrot sticks.

They're cheezy-poofs: deep fried powdered corn/potato snacks, dusted with "powdered carrots." They are not, in fact, carrots.

They're not even food.

Caveat emptor.

Carrot Stix


  1. Package says they’re baked, not fried. Looks like they do have a bit of sunflower oil to give that nice fatty taste. Still 66% corn above all else even though it started off as organic no doubt it’s processed as much as non-organic corn in similar products.

  2. Actually, as I remember from watching one of those How It’s Made shows, the cheesy poofs are corn meal mush that has been put under pressure, and forced through small nozzles. There isn’t any frying or baking as I recall, and the rotating disk-of-holes kinda struck me as pretty novel, especially in lieu of the baking or frying. As the goo pops out of the hole, it expands into the usual familiar shape, kinda like popcorn. Then they’re dusted with whatever flavoring agent is used. Wikipedia is no help:

    I don’t think the corn puffs are such a problem. It’s the fake cheese orange dye that is the problem. You may have been extremely lucky to find such things with powdered carrots as a flavoring agent.

    Cory, you forgot to tell us how they *tasted*!

  3. @3: Well, they’re 13% sunflower oil, so there’s some frying going on there.

    As to how they tasted: we thought we’d give Poesy one just because they were on-hand and how bad could it be for her? She ate it and then pitched a giant tantrum (not normal for her) until we gave her more. “Hyperpalatable” is probably the technical term.

  4. Having a sunflower oil content doesn’t necessarily imply frying: my muffins aren’t fried although I put oil in them (and sour cherries and cream cheese).

    ‘Poesy': +1 for your name choice. :)

  5. Fat and salt are probably hitting that little cavegirl part of her brain, triggering the MOAR reaction. Careful, Cory!

  6. Those who’ve seen the excellent documentary Food, Inc. will recognize one of the film’s key points: that most of the food in the stores these days is somehow made out of corn, whether it appears to be or not.

  7. When a product uses ‘approximate’ spelling (i.e. ‘stix’ and ‘organix’), you know there are shenanigans involved.

  8. Fats are good for babies, esp. brain development. A lot of people limit young kids fat intake when they should really be regulating the TYPE of fat intake. Sun flower oil isn’t bad stuff.

  9. I’ve seen this kind of marketing tactic for junk food before, and I usually laugh it off as harmless. If someone’s really looking for healthy food, surely they will know they aren’t eating a real carrot and not buy that product. Or else they want to eat junk food, and packaging like this makes it OK to their rationalizing mind. Either way, it’s harmless and kind of silly.

    However, your post made me realize that a harried, health-conscious, but very distracted parent might buy something like this for a hungry child thinking they were buying carrots. The child opens the package and eats it. Not quite so harmless after all, I guess.

  10. They sound AWESOME.

    The UK has to have the WORST, meaning the best junk food. Or the junkiest junk food. Every time I go I’m completely blown away by the amount of stuff like this there – ‘organic carrot stix’ and crisps that are fruit flavoured or chicken tikka masala flavoured or roast beef and yorkshire pudding flavoured.

    I’ll look for these next time I’m over. mMMmMmmMmMMmmM

  11. I thought the consumer protection laws were even stronger in the UK than in the US? Perhaps you should report this company to the appropriate authorities for false labeling.

  12. We found those “carrot sticks” in the bargain bin at a tesco a while ago and couldn’t resist (9p! :) Quite disappointing to find out they were standard corn snacks, and rather shocked that those supposedly healthy “organix” snacks were targeted at kids.

    But labelling food as “healthy” and full of “goodness” while shoving tons of sugar, fat and random artifical additives in it is nothing new in the food industry.

  13. Ah, I just looked at the photo you have of the back of the package. The calories are not labeled “Calories” as such, but rather “Energy”.

    Is this normal on UK packaging?

    It seems like a brilliant move. If you look at a package and see that it has lots of calories, you know that won’t be good for your waist line. If you look at the package and see that it’s got lots of “Energy”, how can that be a bad thing? I love it.

    Side question: can you release a photo that is only a straightforward reproduction of someone else’s package design under a creative commons license, allowing people to remix the image?

  14. Cory-

    Did you ever think about reading the package?

    The back, in rather large letters, reads “Baked Corn & Potato Snack coated with Carrot and Coriander”

    So they are not deep fried, and rather upfront about their contents.

    Everyone should read packages. Even if these were 100% organic carrots, they could be freeze dried or coated with tons of awful preservatives. You never know.

    Remember, reading is half the battle. And lasers are the other half.

  15. Cory sounds a bit like my baby mama, except he said “queue” instead of “line”. (ya, I know he’s a convert).

    Declaring these snacks deep fried (not true) and not “food” (also not true) is a bit histrionic, no?

  16. I will say this much: I occasionally enjoy a bag of a locally-made brand of corn poof snacks that are dusted/sprayed with a cloud of actual cheese – quite good cheese, in fact – and in general don’t have that Cheetos thing going with them. I’m pretty sure they’ve got a fair amount of sugar and salt, which are major GIVE ME MOAR agents, though I’m not sure about fat.

    So, are these “junk food?”

    Well, I doubt Michael Pollan would approve, and they certainly are designed, albeit in a more mild fashion than Cheetos, to make you want more. The flavor is not NEARLY as strong, or as sugary/salty. They don’t turn your fingers orange (or yellow, or anything else). I’m pretty sure they’re more or less absent of nutritional value, but I don’t think they do much harm, either. So, yes and no.

  17. I’ve eaten thes before, mistaking them for cheesy poofs (well, Wotsits as they’re called here). It was quite alarming to have a cheese wotsit that tasted of carrot.

  18. #18: listing it as energy is standard here — what’s actully being measured is the food energy, with calories being the units used

    This isn’t just a pedantic point, as we always list the energy value in both calories and kilojoules.

  19. Too much Daily Mail, Cory? :)

    They’re clearly marked as baked, not fried and from reading the ingredients I can’t imagine they’re *that* bad for you — but then they do taste awfully similar to those polystyrene packaging nuggets.

  20. Come to think of it, a child demanding more of an unsalted snack which is not particularly sweet and low in saturated fat is a win.

  21. I think these taste great. I know they are not aimed at 38 year old, but compared to crisps/chips they are healthy and don’t drain your energy like the full fat snacks. The coriander is nice.

  22. ‘Mmmmm… pressurized corn gruel sprayed through tiny nozzles and coated with dye…’

    i prefer wheat smashed relentlessly to a powder, mixed with fungus, salt and sugar, left in warm conditions to go all gassy, then subjected to heat until it goes an off beige…

    re. the ‘poofs’ (cory obviously ain’t THAT converted) – kids love crisps (sorry, poofs). any kid that doesn’t love crisps is a freak with unbearably smug parents. i’d rather have my kids eat the organix stuff than shit like monster munch for example…

    p.s – takuan @23:

  23. Christ Cory – these things are exactly what they claim to be on the packet. Baked corn with carrot and coriander coating. They’re entirely organic (although they don’t claim to use organic salt).

    The picture on the front doesn’t event look like a carrot or carrot baton.

    Oh, and Cheetos are baked too…

  24. In the UK, “crisps” are what the US call “chips”, i.e., corrugated wafers of potato matter. (Corn chips are the exception, and remain “chips” in the UK.) More three-dimensional expressions of starch are called puffs (“curry puffs” are a favourite in pubs), mostly because “poof” is a pejorative term for a male homosexual.

  25. Wait, does this mean my Soylent Green might not have soy or lentil in it? No wonder it was yummy.

  26. Definitely read (as previously mentioned) Goldacre’s brilliant takedown of the “rebuttal” of the FSA organic study (notably, the rebuttal can’t argue with FSA’s finding that there is no evidence of health benefits to eating organic food, and simply tries to change the topic to avoid admitting this.)

    And *never* take the Huffington Post’s science or health reporting seriously even if you support their politics — as a biologist, I’ve always been stunned about the amount of mystic b.s. promoted there by faith-healing hucksters like Chopra. And now Salon explains why the Huffington post is so bad in this area.

  27. “Corn, Carrot, Sunflower Oil. No significant sugar added. Less than 0.1% sodium. They’re food.”

    How dare you? How DARE you! The Food Commissars have dictated that this material does not meet their ideological standards. It does not exist.

  28. Defending junk food with slavering fervor: priceless. Unless you count obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure as a price.

  29. Thank goodness you can count on orange soda being made from oranges, grape nuts formed from grapes and nuts, beer nuts made from…er…beer I guess, and Marmite made from actual marmots.

  30. I would eat better if they didn’t keep selling me all this crap that is bad for me.

    I honestly don’t know if I’m being sarcastic or not.

  31. Meh, they’re fine as an occasional snack for the sprog. No salt, nothing especially unhealthy in them I can see. Not bad emergency portable food: better than a mega screaming when the blood sugar starts dropping!

  32. chips are crips in the UK, but chips in Australia.
    French fries are chips in the UK but Hot Chips in Australia.

    Australia, it’s all chips chips and hot chips.

    And the occasional dim sim.

    God I love OZ. Move back in September.

  33. “chips are crips in the UK”,

    Crips in the UK, now? I guess we got Bloods in Romania?

    “French fries are chips in the UK but Hot Chips in Australia.”

    You know what they call a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in France?

  34. What’s worse?

    The fact that these were made and for sale, or the fact that you bought a snack on a whim and fed it to your baby without reading the packet properly to see if it was what you thought it was?

    You’re really shocked that snack foods are not what they appear to be at first glance? Holy moley.

    1. You’re really shocked that snack foods are not what they appear to be at first glance?

      You do realize that you can buy bags of carrot sticks or pre-washed and peeled baby carrots. And that they’re quite popular for parents to feed to their children as snacks. And that someone reading a label that says ‘organic carrot stix’ might have a reasonable expectation that the package would contain, oh I don’t know, maybe organic carrot sticks.

  35. I usually avoid anything that uses modified spelling of common words.

    They only exist to assist copyrighting said item, and for being able to avoid liability when the law comes knocking.

    “But your honor, I didn’t think he’d build his house with it! it’s trademarked WUD, not ordinary wood!!”

    organix? They are prob the ones who made the malk served in the Springfield school lunch room.

  36. @52- I beg to differ here- anyone who grabbed a heat-sealed potato-chip-style package off the shelf (not the refrigerated area with the rest of the carrots– nothing in this thing needs cooling) and thought he’d find a high percentage of carrot in this is a blithering idiot.
    That’s right up there with the “Well, it said contraceptive jelly, so I put it on toast” stories.

    1. Cicada,

      They were in a cafeteria queue at the zoo, not in a supermarket. Was your comment a performance piece on the theme of blithering?

  37. I tend to agree that the “not food” assertion is false, however I’d still be concerned over the labelling. The front has, in big letters: “Carrot Stix”.. implying they’re mostly carrot: they’re not, regardless of what it says on the back. Some people might not even *read* the back.

  38. @54- Cafeteria, supermarket, whatever– the thing’s kept without refrigeration.

    Seriously– how oblivious would a person have to be to assume that thing was more than tangentially related to an actual carrot?

    #55- If I buy something called a “carrot cake”, am I getting a raw deal if it turns out it’s mainly made of flour?

  39. Antinous, Cory has a long history of verbal inflation and people react to it massively now. You’re not finished defending the boss. It’s your job and your duty as a friend. I respect that and I wouldn’t have reacted if you hadn’t resorted to insulting Cicada (‘blithering’).

  40. If you want carrot sticks, bring your own carrots.

    Cafes in zoos and other attractions rarely sell anything even vaguely tasty or edible. Carrot Stix are organic, they don’t have a huge list of ingredients, and my two-year old son likes them. What’s worse, some corn snacks or a mass-produced, almost inedible sandwich and a slice of cake that’s mostly synthetic.

  41. I think the case (that I see and I believe Cory does too) here is one of disappointment. With the organic movement taking a real momentum, most of us where glad that we could now choose between things that look like food but have gone through unthinkable acts of perversion along their “fresh and healthy” route from the fields to the table, and things that look like food and actually are food.
    Acts of perversion can be performed on organically sourced foods, the end result however no longer resembles the high standards we care and pay for.

    To call a mechanically inflated corn foam, (or whatever it is) “organic carrot sticks” is as a big a cheat as it gets, no matter what it says on the back or in the small print.
    Case for
    a) Ofcom – advertising standards
    b) which? – cosumer whatchdog
    c) Organic Standard Soil Association – complaints department
    d) the national press and bloggs

  42. @#60:

    It’s got what plants crave…!

    Seriously, though, if it’s spelled with an “X” where a “CKS” should be, it’s probably not what it wants you to believe it is.

  43. very low salt and 10% Fat fairly healthy for snacks

    Oh and the person said carrot cake is mostly flour is wrong there is a serious amount of oil in the recipe , now that’s unhealthy food especially if it has the topping on it, nice though

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