What Are You Eating? - Deception Week


By Tanya Silverman

Photo courtesy of Brett L.

A sneaky ingredient lies beneath the colorful labels of various fruity snacks and beverages throughout the “Natural” section of our supermarkets. Fun cartoons that depict raspberries, or flashy banners that read “pomegranate,” distract from its sly presence.

It’s not one of those unnamed “Artificial Flavors” on the extensive list of creepy sounding chemicals that you curiously look up and discover is not only a flavoring agent, but also a rubber accelerator, plus somehow an emission product from animal waste.

The deceptive constituent isn’t too alarming: it’s apples.

This pomaceous tree fruit is often the first item marked on the ingredients list behind many products that advertise themselves as various other flavors. (The “ingredients” list indicates weight significance to the product, meaning the first ingredient is the heaviest, going in a descending order to the lightest.)

Stretch Island may market their fruit leather flavors as “Mango Sunrise” or “Abundant Apricot”, but they are all apple-based. Purple “Harvest Grape”, for instance, is first “apple puree concentrate” and “pear puree concentrate” before its namesake fruit. The same goes for “Summer Strawberry”.

Numerous juices have hidden behind the facade of mixed berries–like RW Knudsen’s Organic Mixed Berry and Trader Joe’s Mixed Berry Fruit & Vegetable Juice—but they contain apple juice as their weightiest component.

Another deceptive berry beverage is cranberry juice. Many brands’ cranberry flavors are firstly apple or grape juice, though some–Ocean Spray and Walnut Acres–list cranberry concentrate equal to apple or grape ingredients.

For those wanting the real deal of pure water and cranberries, it’s best to buy juices that aren’t cocktails, which clearly say 100 percent cranberry juice. Not 100 percent juice; not cocktail, plus, no added sugar, as the beverage sometimes comes sweetened by everyone’s processed favorite: high fructose corn syrup.

To help identify what’s in the food we buy, Michelle Obama proposed reforms to nutritional labeling practices. In collaboration with the FDA, the overhaul of “Nutrition Information” would insert another row to indicate “added sugars.”

While the First Lady’s unveiled plans didn’t mention anything about misleading fruit juices, they do include transitions to make the labeling of serving sizes more accurate to what Americans actually consume (as in, who actually eats half a bagel or a half cup of ice cream?), along with displaying calories more boldly.

Those aren’t the only bold changes that may affect our country’s food labeling practices, either. The cheese section of our supermarkets may be subject to rampant reform since the European Union announced that the United States should not be allowed to produce cheeses and name them titles that have historic ties to their continent. As part of trade talks, specific cheeses under attack are asiago, gruyere, romano, gorgonzola, or munster.

While America produces a soft, smooth version of muenster (and adds the “e”), it’s distinctively different from the French version that originates from the Alsace region.

Senator Chuck Schumer made a point to defend his recent bid of backing the artisanal cheese monger scene in New York and beyond: “Muenster is muenster, no matter how you slice it.”

Photo courtesy of Laurence Simon.

Corporate cheese mass producers aren’t happy either. Kraft expressed dismay over the EU’s prospective infringements, claiming the changes in language of established products could confuse consumers.

Under these laws, feta cheese would need to change its name even though there’s no Feta, Greece. It wouldn’t stop there, though: “Greek yogurt” is subject to these proposed laws, too. A passed regulation might ravish the ever-expanding dairy section, not to mention several Ben & Jerry’s selections, protein bars, or Dannon dips (that dare call themselves “Oikos” and add Jalapeno Salsa flavoring).

Then, in this possible world where Europe has a monopoly on cheese names, if gruyere has to come from Switzerland, would American restaurants still call it “French Onion Soup” if they bake gruyere on top, which can’t be gruyere anyway? Or what about the baguette crackers melted on top? Could we speculate a revitalization of “Freedom Fries” (for a snack that’s actually Belgian in origin)?

Maybe in an ideal hypothetical food-labeling world of the highest respect and honesty, certain fruit products would be properly labeled as flavored apple products, Michelle Obama’s health agenda would actually entail change, and all cheeses, regardless of nationality, could live together harmoniously.