‘Fruit-flavored snacks’ are ‘made with real fruit’? Really?

Posted by
August 14, 2014



A couple days ago I was looking at some of the supposedly healthier snacks in our neighborhood supermarket when I encountered a pleasant-looking young woman shopper carrying a toddler. Picking up a package of Hawaiian Punch Fruit Gushers, I asked her, “Excuse me, but would you buy this for your child?”

“Yeah, I think so,” she replied. “It says it’s real fruit.”

I then showed her the list of actual ingredients, which included partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil – a source of trans fat that the Food and Drug Administration estimates is responsible for 7,000 deaths a year from heart attacks – as well as carrageenan, which can cause intestinal inflammation, and four artificial dyes. “That, I probably wouldn’t feed him,” she admitted, adding that “when you’re in a hurry,” you’re not apt to stop and examine ingredients.

That, unfortunately, is what a lot of today’s manufacturers of processed foods are counting on.

fruitblogThe only things they’d really like you to notice are front-of-package blurbs like “Made With Real Fruit” and “Good Source of Vitamin C.”  And the fruity-sounding cutesy names like “Pineapple Paradise,” “Watermelon Luau,” and “Maui Mango,” all of which are “naturally flavored.” And the mini-nutritional guide that tells you each pouch has a mere 10 grams of sugars and zero grams of saturated fat.

But they’re hoping you’ll have neither time nor inclination to examine that ingredients listing on the side of the box, where you’ll learn those “Fruit Gushers” contain really unhealthy, artery-clogging trans fat (which you know is present any time you see “partially hydrogenated oil,” despite the loophole that allows any amount of trans fat under 0.5 grams to be reduced to zero on the deceptive “Nutrition Facts” label). Not to mention those synthetic dyes, which researchers from Yale found caused baby rats to become hyperactive and have diminished learning ability in an experiment designed to simulate the “real world” levels to which children are routinely exposed. (And we wonder why so many of today’s kids suffer from so-called “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.”)

Real fruit it ain’t

General Mills, which manufactures Fruit Gushers, probably also would prefer you remained unaware of the fact that there’s no actual pineapple, watermelon or mango listed in the product, whose “fruit” content consists of pears from concentrate and grape juice from concentrate. That’s something you’ll find tucked in the fine print of a little disclaimer above the Nutrition Facts, which also tells you that these fruit-flavored snacks are “not intended to replace fruit in the diet.”

(It should be noted that another General Mills product with similar ingredients, Strawberry Fruit Roll-ups, is having its label revised to eliminate pictures of strawberries and list the percent of “fruit” it contains as a result of a lawsuit filed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.)

And while there’s no high fructose corn syrup listed among the sweetening agents, which include sugar, you might also notice (again, if you took time to look) something nearly as disturbing – the presence of added fructose. It’s the fructose in high fructose corn syrup, after all, that researchers are increasingly convinced is  linked to obesity and diabetes, since it’s neither bonded with glucose as it is in sugar (sucrose) nor combined with fiber and pulp, as it is naturally in fruit. (And how much fructose are we talking about here, exactly?)

Of course, not all fruit-flavored snack items have ingredients quite as bad as these. But what’s really important to remember is that despite those “real fruit” claims on the packaging of various brands, none of these products are any kind of substitute for the “real fruit you’ll find in the produce aisle. They’re not even close.

A far better idea would be to bring some apples, bananas, peaches or other fresh fruit along the next time you want something healthy for you or your family to snack on. Especially the certified organic varieties, which are not only free of toxic chemicals, but apt to be a lot more nutritious.

What kind of difference would that make? Well, consider that while “Fruit Gushers” with “Maui Mango” flavor claim to provide 10 percent of a daily value of vitamin C, but “are not a significant source” of either dietary fiber or vitamin A.

Now take your average actual mango.  It’s rich in a number of essential nutrients – including not only vitamins C and A, but B6 and E, as well as potassium and flavonoids like beta-carotene — and is also high in dietary fiber.

It also  comes with no artery-clogging partially hydrogenated oil or brain-agitating artificial colors.

And there’s no “Fruit Gusher” or “Roll-Up”in existence that tastes anywhere near as refreshing or terrific!