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The name game: let them eat buzzwords.

How many flakes of oat bran does it take to make an "Oat Bran Muffin"? How many blueberries constitute a "Blueberry Bagel"? Not many.

For most foods, the Food and Drug Administration has no formal rules about how much Ingredient X a company must add before it can call its product "Ingredient X" soup or cereal or whatever.

For years, we and other consumer groups have argued that the FDA could make things better by requiring labels to list ingredients not just in order of predominance, but with the actual percentage of each major ingredient.

Not surprisingly, the food industry hasn't been fond of the idea, and the FDA hasn't budged. So here's an alternative: At the very least, companies should disclose the percentage of ingredients that are emblazoned across the front of their packages. Here are a few examples that show why.

The label on these Lender's Bagels says Blueberry, but there are more dried colored apple pieces than blueberries in them. Guess what color the apples are.

Fruit is the first ingredient in Sunkist Fun Fruits Whacky Players, and manufacturer Lipton says they're 30 percent fruit (by weight). But that works out to only 1 1/2 grapes or 1/17 of an orange in a whole pouch of candy. Pretty whacky, huh?

Need more whole grains in your diet? Four Wheatsworth Stone Ground Crackers have more oil than whole wheat flour --less than half a tablespoon.

Looking for legumes? Patio Beef & Bean Burrito sounded like a good source...until we counted the beans. Seven. No kidding.

The picture of Lean Cuisine Glazed Chicken with Vegetable Rice shows six thick slices of mushroom. Well, it may be that Stouffer has special slicers that cut each mushroom into 17 slices, because the slices we found in this entree amounted to about a third of a mushroom. As for the vegetable rice--it has less than 1/2 ounce of green beans and about a teaspoon of onions. That's it.

If it's whole grains you want, don't expect Kellogg's Eggo Nutri-Grain Waffles made with Whole Grain to help much. Each waffle contains a whopping 1/25 of a cup of whole wheat. It's got more oil than that.

General Mills' Honey Nut Cheerios has more sugar than honey and more salt than nuts. (We're talking half an almond in each serving.) Sugar Salt Cherrios would be more like it. And what about Post Honey Bunches of Oats? A bowlful contains 1/15 of a teaspoon of honey (and 1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar). Wow.

What's in that photo on Mrs. Paul's Light Seafood Rotini? Those hefty chunks of white and red seafood sure look like crab. But Mrs. Paul (aka Campbell) adds more salt, artificial flavor, and onion powder than crab. Then again, who needs the real thing when you can have surimi, the crab substitute made of inexpensive pollock?

The label on Prego Spaghetti Sauce says "made with Fresh Mushrooms," Yet each serving has about half a mushroom. Wouldn't it be nice if the label said "Made with 3 Fresh Mushrooms"? (That's for the whole jar.)

Banquet Vegetable Pie with Chicken may sound like a good way to get your vegetables. But the fatty crust aside, when we pulled one apart we found only ten peas, 1/20 of a raw carrot, and 1/9 of a potato. So how can the whole thing weigh seven ounces? Try one ounce of chicken, a three-ounce shell, and two-and-a-half ounces of sauce.

How much buttermilk would you expect in a serving of three Pillsbury Hungry Jack Buttermilk Pancakes? A quarter cup? An eighth of a cup? Try 1/60 of a cup--less than a teaspoon. Why do they bother? Some market researcher must have told them that "buttermilk" sells.

Lorraine Jones, Michael Rudolf, and Adam Yarme provided the research for this article.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:food labeling
Author:Liebman, Bonnie
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Date:Mar 1, 1992
Previous Article:How's your diet?
Next Article:Cereals: playing the grain game.

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