Our ‘awfulness awards’ recipients range from soups to cereals

Posted by
March 21, 2013

Inspired by some of the items I saw on the shelves during my latest trip to the supermarket, I thought it was time to again single out those most worthy of  “dishonorable mention.” After carefully compiling a list of products whose claims and ingredients were among the most dubious, I narrowed it down to the ones I thought particularly deserving of  Food Identity Theft’s “Awfulness Awards.”

And the winners are:

Umm, Umm, Bad Award: Campbell’s Fun Favorites soups

We know the supermarket is filled with numerous bad food choices, but when big and supposedly reputable food companies like Campbell’s specifically market items to kids containing ingredients known to be harmful to them, well, that’s just plain wrong.

As an especially egregious example of that kind of marketing, we selected three of  Campbell’s “Fun Favorites” soups, Scooby-Doo, Phineas and Ferb and Disney Princesses, all of which contain monosodium glutamate.  Now while this neurotoxic flavor enhancer isn’t especially good for people of any age, it’s especially harmful to kids. Experts have known for some time that ingredients such as monosodium glutamate and other “excitotoxins” containing manufactured glutamic acid (among them soy protein isolate, which these soups also contain) can have devastating effects on a child’s personality, behavior and learning ability (for more on these additives, read the blog, “’Glutamic bombs’”).

Monosodium glutamate is used in these products for one reason only: to create a “more flavorful broth” – even if it means putting the health and healthy brain development of its intended consumers at risk.


Misleading Labeling Award: Crisco Baking Sticks

Implying its product is somehow healthier than butter and contains zero trans fats, Crisco’s parent company, J.M. Smucker, is happily taking advantage of an unfortunate labeling loophole that allows up to 0.5 of heart-damaging trans fats per serving to be labeled as zero. (For more on trans fats, look here).

While there are many other products out there that also enjoy this free pass for trans fats, we chose Crisco Baking Sticks because of its proud and prominent front-of-package “0 Trans Fat” claim.





Breakfast Bummers Award #1: Quaker Oatmeal Peaches & Cream

Is it too much to expect of a product that has “peaches” in its name for it to actually contain some? Instead of peaches, however, what you’ll actually find in this peachy-sounding breakfast food are apples pieces treated with sodium sulfite and some artificial peach flavor. But what’s even worse, Quaker has managed to mangle a simple dish such as oatmeal with a “creaming agent” containing partially hydrogenated soybean oil (another source of trans fats), artificial color and more artificial flavors.

Quaker does, in fact, know what peaches are, and uses them in its “Real Medleys” peach oatmeal. Perhaps this version is for those who either don’t care or don’t bother reading ingredient labels.



Breakfast Bummers Award #2: Kellogg’s Mini Wheats Blueberry and Strawberry cereals

Kellogg’s gets this award not only for failing to add any blueberries or strawberries to these fruity sounding cereals, but also for the rest of the lineup of bad ingredients they contain,which include the artificial colors Red #40 and Red 40 lake, along with Blue #1, Blue #2, and Blue 2 lake, as well as the preservative BHT.

So if you’re thinking of buying these cereals for the health benefits of blueberries or strawberries, forget it, because what you’ll actually get are a bevy of artificial colors, which, as noted in our “Top ten additives to avoid” blogs, are widely associated with behavioral problems in some kids. That’s why in Europe, foods containing these additives are required to carry a warning that they “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.” And if that’s not bad enough, such fake hues are made from petroleum extracts and coal tar.


‘Goodness Has Nothing To Do With It’ Award: Minute Maid Lemonade

We’ve simply gotta hand it to the advertising agency that landed the Minute Maid Lemonade account for coming up with so many extravagant words to describe this product, some of which they liked so much they actually put them in bold type:

Why does our lemonade taste so good?
With Minute Maid Lemonade you can taste that goodness in every last drop. The refreshingly delicious taste of good times and sunny days. We take the goodness of real lemons to give you the perfectly delicious, naturally refreshing taste you love. Lemonade this good deserves a special package. That’s why we have a refreshing look to go with our great taste and real lemon goodness.

Here’s my version:

Is all that high fructose corn syrup what makes our lemonade taste so good?
With Minute Maid Lemonade you can taste the high fructose corn syrup in every last drop (since it’s the second ingredient after water). We took the goodness of as few lemons as possible (which is why it’s only 3% lemon juice), added all that HFCS along with the artificial color Yellow #5 to make it look more ‘lemony’, three preservatives to allow it to remain “refreshing” for a very long time, and some citric acid to provide tartness, since there isn’t that much actual lemon juice. But then, since the Food and Drug Administration has no legal definition of lemonade, you’re lucky it has any “real lemon goodness” at all!