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The latest scams.

It's hard to keep with the food industry. Just when you think you've seen it all, some up marketing exec comes up with a new plan to boost profits. If that means fooling at least some of the public some of the time, well, that's business. Here are some recent tricks (and a few that have been around for a while).

Information compiled by Melissa Pryputniewicz.


Almond Non-Milk

There's a new milk in your dairy case. And it sounds perfect.

Silk Original Pure Almond milk has "60 calories per serving," is "rich in antioxidants," and is "lactose-free and soy-free," according to the label.

Silk's Web site gives almonds all the credit. "A serving of almonds provides an excellent source of vitamin E (a natural antioxidant), and a good source of protein and fiber. In fact, almonds are higher in protein and fiber than any other tree nut."

Maybe so, but a 1 oz. serving of almonds (about two dozen) has 6 grams of protein (and 165 calories). A cup of almond milk has just 1 gram--far less than the 8 to 9 grams of protein in a cup of cow's milk (or the 6 to 8 grams in a cup of soy milk). How come?

It turns out that almond milk doesn't have many almonds. Judging by the 2 1/2 grams of fat in every serving, a cup of almond milk is made from about four nuts. The "milk" is mostly water and enough evaporated cane juice to supply about two teaspoons of added sugar per cup.

(That's for the Original. The 90-calorie Vanilla has about 4 teaspoons of sugar per cup and the 120-calorie Dark Chocolate has 5 1/2 teaspoons.)

And Original and Vanilla Pure Almond are "rich in antioxidants" only because Silk adds vitamin E to them. The company also tosses in vitamins A and D, potassium, and calcium to make them equal to cow's milk.

Blue Diamond's Almond Breeze milks are similar to Silk's, except that the Breezes come in 40-calorie unsweetened versions. Both brands may appeal to vegans (who eat no dairy foods) or to people who are allergic to dairy.

If that's you, here's a tip: Odds are, you're better off with protein-rich soy milk.

Full of It

"You know that hunger you get between meals?" asks the box of Ritz Crackerfuls. "Crackerfuls provides the perfect snack break!"


It's presumably perfect because the crackers have "6 g of whole grain per serving," "3 g of fiber," and "140 calories." And they're "made with real cheese."

Impressive ... unless you realize that the crackers are mostly white flour, and that more than two-thirds of their fiber comes from added "resistant corn maltodextrin."

(Resistant means that the maltodextrin resists digestion, which is why the Food and Drug Administration lets Ritz count it as "fiber." But there's no good evidence that resistant corn maltodextrin helps prevent heart disease, diabetes, or constipation, like the intact fiber in whole grains does.)

As for the "real cheese," it's mostly cream cheese plus cheddar cheese powder. A serving of Crackerfuls contains just 2 grams of protein and 4 percent of a day's calcium. A 1 oz. slice of cheddar has about 7 grams of protein and 20 percent of a day's calcium.

Crackerfuls are just a gussied up version of ordinary cheese-and-cracker sandwiches. A smidgen of cheese between two mostly white-flour crackers may hold you over until lunch.

But a "perfect snack break"? Only to Nabisco.



When you've got a good thing going, why stop?

That must be General Mills' attitude towards Cheerios. Ever since the Food and Drug Administration agreed that the soluble fiber in oats can lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol, ads and labels have made Cheerios sound like a statin drug.

Eating 3 grams a day of oats' soluble fiber (beta-glucan) can lower LDL by about 3 percent. But you'd have to eat three 1-cup servings of Cheerios every day to get that much. And that's original Cheerios, which comes in the familiar yellow box.

General Mills makes 10 other kinds of Cheerios, each with more sugar and less oat fiber than the original. The latest: Chocolate Cheerios. It's 33 percent added sugar (original Cheerios is less than 1 percent sugar). In fact, Chocolate Cheerios has more sugar and corn syrup than oats. Its main ingredient is whole-grain corn, not oats.

So how can the box say "May reduce the risk of heart disease"? Chocolate Cheerios qualifies for that claim because it (like most cereals) is low in fat. Berry Burst Cheerios, Cheerios Crunch, and Banana Nut Cheerios also make heart disease claims because they're low-fat, not oat-rich.

And that's not the only trick.

Banana Nut Cheerios, for example, has more salt than banana puree. And Yogurt Burst Cheerios has more sugar than "naturally yogurt flavored coating," which is made with more sugar and palm kernel oil than dried heat-treated yogurt. ("Heat treated" means that the bacteria that make it yogurt are dead.)

General Mills is betting that the Cheerios name will make any cereal sound healthy. Got that right.

Where's the Veggies?

"Every 8 fl oz glass of Mott's Medleys has 2 total fruit & veggie servings, the powerful antioxidant Vitamins C & E and the bone mineral magnesium," says the bottle of Mott's Medleys Tropical flavored fruit & carrot juice blend.


How does Mott's squeeze two servings of fruits and vegetables into one 8 oz. cup? Simple. The U.S. Department of Agriculture's MyPyramid food guide says that a serving of juice is just half a cup. So an 8 oz. glass of any juice is two servings. Voila!

But Mott's manages to squeeze a serving of veggies in there, too, right? Not exactly. "Two total fruit & veggie servings" sounds like one fruit and one vegetable. But Mott's doesn't promise a full serving of veggies. And it doesn't deliver one, either.

Each glass has just 6 percent of a day's vitamin A. If the glass were half carrot juice, it would have 450 percent. So Mott's is selling mostly water plus nutrient-poor apple and grape juice fortified with vitamins C and E and magnesium.

"Tastes just like the fruit juice your family loves!" promises the label. That's because it is fruit juice.

Ocean Spray Fruit & Veggie 100% Juice, with "2 servings of fruits & vegetables" combined, also has more grape and apple than carrot or other juices. Judging by its vitamin A content, an 8 oz. glass has, at best, 1 oz. (2 Tbs.) of carrot juice.

Bottom line: You're better off eating fruits and vegetables than drinking them.

Noodles for Two?


"Annie Chun's Noodle Bowls are Instant Gourmet Food, perfect for lunch or a quick dinner at your fingertips!" says the company's Web site. "Keep these bowls in your desk or cupboard, then just heat and serve."

Serve yourself and a co-worker, that is.

Annie Chun's Noodle Bowls and Soup Bowls sure look like one serving. But the Nutrition Facts are for "1/2 bowl." Most people won't notice, of course. They'll just assume that the Nutrition Facts apply to the entire bowl. So when they eat a Pad Thai Noodle Bowl, for example, they'll get 460 calories (not 230) and 1,420 milligrams of sodium (not 710 mg).

Annie isn't the only trickster. KA-ME, Thai Kitchen, and A Taste of Thai also pretend that each package serves two. In contrast, Simply Asia owns up to the full package.

And it's not just Asian dishes. Campbell pretends that its regular, Chunky, and Healthy Request single-serve container microwaveable bowls serve two. So do Healthy Choice and Health Valley. Who are they kidding? Not you any more.



"Antioxidants & hearty whole grain texture," boasts the label on Kellogg's new Nutri-Grain Superfruit Fusion Cherry Pomegranate bars.

Judging by the size of the claim, most shoppers would assume that the cherries and pomegranate that are splattered all over the box are the source of the antioxidants. But the smaller print says otherwise ... if you know the code.

Start with the name. They're not Superfruit Fusion bars, they're Superfruit Fusion flavored bars. And they're not Cherry Pomegranate bars, they're Cherry Pomegranate naturally & artificially flavored bars. "Flavored" is code for "hardly any."

"We've taken traditional fruit and blended it with superfruit flavors," says the back of the box. Translation: the filling has more high-fructose corn syrup than cherry puree concentrate, and more natural and artificial flavors than pomegranate juice concentrate. (Pomegranate is hot because a few very preliminary studies suggest that it may lower the risk of heart disease and prostate cancer.)

Then there are the antioxidants. They're just the vitamins C and E that Kellogg adds along with a bunch of other vitamins.

Kashi TLC Soft-Baked Cereal Bars also offer just a smidgen of the fruit that's in the name. (Kellogg owns Kashi. Hmmm.) Whether it's Blackberry Graham, Ripe Strawberry, or Baked Apple, you're getting more pear juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, and molasses or tapioca syrup than any fruit puree or powder.

Stay In for Restaurant Prices!


"The select ingredients and

simple preparation of Restaurant Favorites allow you to easily prepare restaurant-inspired entrees any night of the week," explains the Romano's Macaroni Grill Restaurant Favorites box. "Stay In and Go All Out!"

What a great idea. Take the Creamy Basil Parmesan Chicken & Pasta. For roughly $5, you get a box of linguine pasta, creamy sauce, basil & cheese seasoning, sun-dried tomatoes, and grated Parmesan & Romano cheese blend. Together, they weigh half a pound, so you're paying $10 a pound for the dish.

Well, not the entire dish. You still have to buy a pound of raw boneless skinless chicken breasts, two tablespoons of butter, and 3/4 cup of milk.

One more thing: the label says that a box contains five servings, which means that each person gets about 2 1/2 ounces of cooked chicken and 1/2 cup of cooked pasta plus sauce. But odds are, most people will split the box among two. That means 750 calories (not 300, as the box claims), 1,250 milligrams of sodium (not 500 mg), and half a day's sat fat (not a quarter of a day's) for each diner. And those 750 calories are less than the 1,000 calories you'd get in a typical pasta dish at a restaurant.

General Mills (which also makes Hamburger Helper) offers five Romano's Macaroni Grill Restaurant Favorites. What a great deal ... for the company.

Smart Corporate Bank Balance


"Tastes rich & creamy like 2% milk!" boasts the label on Smart Balance Fat Free Milk.

It's got "antioxidant vitamins C & E, 25% more calcium, and 25% more protein," says the large print. More than what? "Than whole milk," notes the smaller print.

Gosh, that sounds good. It must sound good enough that some people are willing to fork over $4.50 for a half gallon, even though ordinary milk is only about $2.50 per half gallon.

Well how does this sound? The extra vitamins C and E don't lower your risk of heart disease or anything else. In fact, in some studies, people who took more than 400 IU a day of vitamin E had a slightly higher risk of dying. (Smart Balance Fat Free has 50 IU per cup.)

Smart Balance does have extra non-fat milk solids, which gives each 8 oz. glass 35 percent of a day's calcium, marginally more than the 30 percent in ordinary milk. The extra milk solids also supply 10 grams of protein, slightly more than the 8 grams in most kinds of milk.

But many store brands of fat-free or low-fat milk also have extra milk solids. And they don't charge an extra $2 per half gallon.

The company that sells Smart Balance is smart, all right. All the way to the bank.
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Title Annotation:FOOD WATCH
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2010
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