If you are going to make fake food, call it what it is

Posted by
September 22, 2011

In case years of fake foods have made you forget what a real blueberry looks like. (Bottom photo shows a serving of "blueberry flavored fruit pieces.")

Does anyone remember Ritz® mock apple pie? Apparently we ate a lot of Ritz crackers when I was a kid, because I recall reading the recipe numerous times on the package back, as well as having a high level of intrigue with the concept; an apple pie stuffed with crackers not apples? It seemed totally absurd to me, even at the age of ten.

But at least it was called a “mock” apple pie.

I thought of that cracker apple filling the other day while in the supermarket. Two of the first three  dietary deceptions we are reporting on here at Food Identity Theft are the bogus blueberry foods and the tomato sauce scam, and I saw a lot of both of them yesterday.

For example, there’s Jiffy® Blueberry muffin mix, with a package featuring yummy-looking muffins containing what certainly appears to be blueberries and a recipe for blueberry coffeecake and blueberry pancakes and waffles on the side.

Not only does the “blueberry” muffin mix contain not a hint of actual blueberries (although it does contain “partially hydrogenated lard,” a heart-stopping description I had never before seen in years of reading  labels), but it encourages consumers to bring this culinary chicanery home by making their families fake blueberry coffeecake, pancakes and waffles.

Then there’s ShopRite® brand Blueberries & Cream instant oatmeal. The package is beautiful showing large, plump blueberries and a pitcher of cream set against a farm scene. The ingredient list, however, isn’t as pretty. The “blueberry” part of the deal is called “blueberry flavored fruit pieces” consisting in part of dried figs, dried corn syrup solids, blueberry juice concentrate, numerous artificial colors and artificial flavor.

My favorite “where’s the fruit?” product from that trip is Kellogg’s® Fruity Snacks mixed berry. The pretty red, blue and purple package shows strawberries, raspberries and blueberries morphing into the fruit-shaped Fruity Snacks. The package bottom says “made with real fruit” and in extra small print “see side panel for details.” However, the only mention of anything remotely fruity on the label is an apple puree concentrate.

The use of real fruit and vegetable ingredients in numerous packaged foods is so scarce that you will often see big print on a package saying “made with real fruit!” In one example I saw, a carrot cake mix, which made a really big deal over the fact there were actual carrot pieces added in the mix! Imagine that, a carrot cake with carrots in it!

And speaking of Food Identity Theft, the Associated Press is credited with releasing two documents last week from the FDA regarding the Corn Refiners Association’s attempt to do a switcheroo on the name high fructose corn syrup and have it rebranded as “corn sugar.”

In one, a March 2010 email  from Michael Taylor, the FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods, Taylor is quoted as saying, “it would be affirmatively misleading to change the name of the ingredient after all this time, especially in light of the controversy surrounding it.” He went on to say, “If we allow it, we will rightly be mocked both on the substance of the outcome and the process through which it was achieved.”
Another document brought to light by the AP is a July, 2011 letter from the FDA’s Barbara Schneeman to the Corn Refiners Association, in which the association was asked to “re-examine your websites and modify statements that use the term ‘corn sugar’ as a synonym for (high fructose corn syrup).”

And while we’re on the topic of the FDA, have you sent your opinion in to the agency yet on this high fructose corn syrup name game?  If not, I’d recommend you do so here now!