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The whole truth.

Whole grains are hot. From breads and cereals to crackers, cookies, pasta, and pretzels, whole-grain claims are everywhere.

The food industry is clearly bent on marketing more 100 percent whole-grain foods, including croutons, frozen entrees, and pizza (see photos above).

But loose regulations are allowing companies to make up their own whole-grain claims. And that has left consumers to sort out the differences between promises like "made with whole grain," "whole grain blend," and "multigrain," with no numbers (like "50% whole grain") on the packages to guide them.

Here's the whole truth, and nothing but....

The information for this article was compiled by Tamara Goldis.

Good Source

"Good source of whole grain," says Kraft Supermac & Cheese, Wonder Made with Whole Grain White Bread, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Made with Whole Grain, and Post Honey Bunches of Oats Cereal Bars.

What's a "good source"? At least 8 grams of whole grain per serving, according to the food industry. But a serving of many foods weighs 30 to 55 grams (one to two ounces), which means "good source" foods could be as much as 85 percent refined grain.

Foods that say "excellent source" can have as little as 16 grams of whole grain per serving.

(Don't confuse whole grain with fiber. Eight grams of whole wheat has less than 1 gram of fiber.)

In February, the Food and Drug Administration urged companies to stop making "good" or "excellent source" claims. But the FDA's policy is voluntary, so the claims may not disappear any time soon.

The Whole Truth: "Good source" or "excellent source" foods often have far more refined grain than whole grain.

Harvest Wheat

Who wouldn't want what DiGiorno's label calls the "goodness of harvest wheat crust"? And the "9 grams of whole grain per serving" in its Harvest Wheat Rising Crust Pizza may sound impressive.

But that's 9 grams out of each 130-gram slice of pizza (a sixth of a DiGiorno pie) Most of the rest is water, refined flour, cheese, and tomato paste.

Nine grams of whole grain s better than no whole grain. But if you nave to eat, say, 20 or 30 grams of white flour to get 9 grams of whole wheat, the ape should make that clear.

Kraft sells not only DiGiorno, put single-serve South Beach Diet Harvest Wheat Crust Pizzas. On South Beach boxes, the words "Harvest Wheat" mean Whole wheat" Go figure.

The Whole Truth: "Wheat" could mean refined or whole. "Harvest" means nice sounding word."

Made with (Not Much)

Made with Whole Wheat," says the Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Pancakes box.

Who would suspect that Nutri-Grain pancakes are mostly refined flour? In fact, they've got more sugar than whole wheat.

Eggo Nutri-Grain Waffles pray the same game The big print says "Made with Whole Wheat," but the waffles have more refined flour than whole wheat. And on y 25 to 30 percent of the flour in Sara Lee Soft & Smooth made with Whole Grain White Bread s whole grain. Ditto for Genera Mills Rice Chex ("with Whole Grain").

The Whole Truth: "Made with" often means mace with very me

Multigrain

Entenmann's Multi-Grain Cereal Bars are "loaded with real fruit filling in a fresh baked multi-grain crust," says the box.

Technically true, but the crust consists largely of bleached wheat (that is, refined) flour and more sugars, palm oil, and nonfat milk than (whole-grain) oats or wheat bran. (The "real fruit filling" has more corn syrup than raspberries.)

Multigrain claims are multiplying, as are claims that replace "multi" with a number (like 12-Grain). You'll find them on foods like:

* Nabisco Premium Saltines with Multi Grain, which have no more than grams of whole grains in a five-Saltine serving.

* Barilla Plus "Enriched Multigrain Pasta," which has more (refined) semolina flour than "grain and legume flour blend."

* Nabisco Harvest Five Grain Wheat Thins crackers and Multi-Grain Wheat Thins Chips, which are only about 10 percent whole grain. (Multi-Grain Wheat Thins crackers are half whole grain.)

The Whole Truth: It doesn't matter if you're getting 5, 10, or 15 grains if those grains are mostly refined.

Whole Grain

Does "whole grain" on the package mean "100% whole grain" in the food? Sometimes.

Pepperidge Farm's delicious new Whole Grain Swirl breads are 100% whole grain, though their packages don't say so.

In contrast, Knorr Lipton Rice Sides Made with Whole Grains are 75% whole grain. And the "Whole Grain Fettuccini" in Knorr Lipton Pasta Sides Made with Whole Grains is 51% whole wheat. (We had to call the company to find out.)

Don't get us wrong. A pasta that's 51% whole wheat beats one that's 0% whole wheat. But it would be nice to see those percentages on the label.

The Whole Truth: If the label doesn't say "100% whole grain," check the ingredient list to see if the food contains any refined grains or flour. Dead giveaways: enriched or unbleached wheat flour, semolina flour, durum flour, and rice flour. (It's okay to ignore refined flours if they appear far down the list near the salt.)

Blends

A "whole grain blend" can be mostly whole grain, mostly refined grain, or half and half.

Ronzoni Healthy Harvest Whole Wheat Blend Pasta, for example, has no whole wheat flour. It's mostly refined flour with wheat bran and wheat fiber tossed in.

Rice A Roni Savory Whole Grains Roasted Garlic Italiano is "a blend of whole grain brown rice with orzo," while the Savory Whole Grains Chicken & Herb Classico is "a blend of whole grain brown rice, pearled barley and pearled wheat." But the company won't say how much refined grain (orzo, pearled barley, and pearled wheat) is in the box.

Near East Whole Grain Blends, on the other hand, tell shoppers--albeit in small print on the back that the Roasted Pecan & Garlic, for example, "contains 53% Whole Grain as packaged." (The others range from 52 to 76 percent.)

Brilliant. Now if we could only get the government to require a percentage on all foods that make whole-grain claims, consumers would know what they're getting.

The Whole Truth: "Whole grain blend" often means a mix of whole and refined grains.

Heart Disease & Cancer Claim

"Rich in Whole Grains ... May Reduce The Risk of Heart Disease," says the label of Boboli 100% Whole Wheat Pizza Crust. The smaller print adds, "Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers."

That mouthful is called a health claim because it mentions a disease. And it's only allowed on a food that is at least 51 percent whole grain; low in total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol; and not high in sodium or low in nutrients.

The trouble is that few consumers know all that. And companies can slap a concise, upbeat "structure or function" claim (like "may promote heart health") on any old food instead.

The Whole Truth: Only decent foods can make whole-grain claims that mention heart disease or cancer. Any food can make structure or function claims like "may promote heart health."
COPYRIGHT 2006 Center for Science in the Public Interest
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:whole grains labeling
Author:Hurley, Jayne
Publication:Nutrition Action Healthletter
Article Type:Cover story
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:May 1, 2006
Words:1178
Previous Article:Whole grains: the inside story.
Next Article:Coffee & heart attacks.
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