Saturday, November 17, 2012


Industry's ways to fob of the consumer are mind boggling indeed! After the universal front of the pack labeling practices were introduced a few years ago, it was no more possible for the manufacturers to hide what each product contains in terms of its ingredients and nutrients. At least this was the thinking of the policy makers. This was supposed to have ushered in an era of transparency the consumers could feel comfortable. However those who designed the labeling policies did not reckon with the ingenuity of an industry which has least concern for consumer well being and more interested in boosting their financial health. There are hundreds of instances where industry uses devious ways to mislead the consumer, some contravening the rules and others using loopholes in the statute book. Here is a latest case of mislabeling of a product, though legally it might be difficult to take the manufacturer to task. It concerns suppressing the information regarding the sugar ingredient in a product by using the scientific alternative terminology that can confuse an ordinary consumer to no end. Here is a take on this latest labeling "circus".

"While the name thing may sound like mere semantics, the stakes for the food industry are actually pretty high. FDA issued a guidance three years ago suggesting that manufacturers shouldn't use the term evaporated cane juice to describe sweeteners made from sugar cane syrup because the term hides the fact that ultimately it's sugar. Of course, because it's a guidance, and a draft one at that, the agency technically can't enforce it. Earlier this year, northern Californian Katie Kane sued the yogurt company Chobani in federal court, claiming its use of the term "evaporated cane juice" misled her into buying the company's Greek yogurt. Her class-action suit is seeking unspecified damages, and she relies heavily on FDA's guidance in her argument. We contacted Chobani. It wouldn't comment on why it uses the term "evaporated cane juice" instead of sugar. But a Chobani spokesperson told The Salt in an email that its labels are not misleading and that it plans to "vigorously defend" itself against Kane's charges. While some folks appear to be distancing themselves from the name "sugar," corn refiners have been on a longstanding quest to put on the sugar mantle. Alas, for them, the FDA ruled earlier this year that the makers of high fructose corn syrup could not change the name of their product to corn sugar. Either way, it might be best to keep in mind a version of the famous Shakespeare line: Sugar by any other name tastes just as sweet — and has just as many calories".

It is true that cane sugar is made from sugarcane by extracting the juice, cleaning it up, concentration and crystallization leaving behind the molasses. Technically evaporated cane juice and a sugar syrup has a vital difference in that the former contains all the natural ingredients which include minerals, vitamins, phytochemicals and waxy substances which were originally present in the cane. But a larger question is whether the manufacturer has really used the natural concentrate which has a characteristic brown color and chlorophyll small, making it an untenable ingredient in a product with snow white color! In the statute book there is no additive by name evaporated sugar cane juice and therefore no standards of identity for such an ingredient. For those watching out for sugar containing products it can be misleading as they may not be aware that the product contains sugar. If such leeway is given to industry next move may be to use the expression "extracted juice from peanut" in place of peanut oil to hide the fact the product contains fat! It will be interesting to watch the outcome of the legal proceedings against the industry which camouflaged the use of sugar by expressing the term evaporated sugar cane juice.


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