May 2009 Archives

Kraft is MAD at us

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Got a little email from Neil Leinwand, VP of Marketing of Kraft Foods. He is mad at us. Hopping steaming mad!


Seems like we were mistaken about Capri Sun on our beverages page. We wrote:
"Basically a bag of water and high fructose corn syrup."

This was incorrect. We have corrected it to say:
"Basically a bag of water and sugar."

Here is his complete email:

To whom it may concern,

Your calories and grams of sugar with respect to Capri Sun Pacific Cooler are correct.  Your reference to High Fructose Corn Syrup is not.  There is no HFCS in Capri Sun as we reformulated the brand well over a year ago, moving to sugar and with 25% fewer grams than previously existed of HFCS.  So if you are going to denigrate our brand (no reference to the short list of ingredients without any artificial colors/flavors/preservatives), I would ask that you at least get your facts straight.

What's the sugar cost of "low fat"?

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It started with Snackwells. Now grocery aisles are crowded with packages of cookies and snacks boasting "Reduced Fat" and "Only 100 Calories". We could discuss a lot of issues concerning the marketing of these products, but since we're sugar stackers, we're going to stick to what we know.

See our article on "Low Fat" Snacks

Why stack up the sugar in reduced fat foods? After all, they're not making any claims about reducing sugar. Well, we were curious. We wondered if low fat foods might contain added sugar to compensate for flavor lost with fat reduction. In the products we looked at, this wasn't the case, but we did make some interesting discoveries when comparing nutrition labels.

Most low fat products still contain quite a bit of sugar. No big surprise there. However, what did surprise us was some of the calorie counts. Products promoted as "sensible snacking" or calorie limited sometimes had calorie counts that weren't that far off from a serving of the real deal.

This may seem obvious, but many people may not think it through, equating low fat with "healthier" or "better" in general. We're just pointing out that a product with reduced fat content won't necessarily differ on all fronts. Low fat snacks usually contain about the same amount of sugar as the classic versions, as well as a comparable or sometimes greater amount of carbohydrates.

There are certainly legitimate reasons for limiting fat intake, and with snack foods, which often contain trans fats and hydrogenated oils, lower fat isn't a bad idea. On the other hand, if your primary goal is simply to reduce calories in your diet, you might want to compare labels before you toss those reduced fat cookies into your cart and see exactly what you're getting. 

Fixing what's broken

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We are only human. We make mistakes.

We appreciate your feedback because it helps us find, and fix, our mistakes. We have thick skins, too, so if you want to hurl abuse at us, along with corrections, feel free. We accept it as punishments for our transgressions against you, our readers.

The Dairy Queen Butterfinger Blizzard was completely wrong; it had the data for the 40 oz. Coca-Cola Slurpee. There were also typos/errors on the unsweetened apple sauce, the orange juice, the regular Snickers, and the McDonald's milk shake. We've tried to fix all of these errors. If you find more, please drop us a line.

The Truth about Fruit

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We've gotten the most feedback about our fruit section. Things like: Fruit doesn't contain table sugar, so it's misleading to use sugar cubes to show the sugar content. Fruit is natural and healthy, how dare you compare it with Pop Tarts!

First, please check out the article in Wikipedia on fructose, specifically, the table of sugar content of various fruits and vegetables. We are not chemists, however, so we will leave the further research up to you.

The point we were trying to make, however, is that all fruits aren't the same. Some have more sugar than others. An apple may not, in fact, be quite as good for you as a strawberry. Eating fruits, even sugary ones, may have other benefits that offset the amount of sugar they contain. That very well may be the case. But we still think it's important to be clear on just how much sugar we're talking about.

And don't get us started on faux fruits: fruit juice, smoothies, jam, sugar-fortified apple sauce, fruit rolls, etc. Just because a product has some fruit content, or looks like it has fruit inside, or is derived from a fruit, doesn't mean you should put it in your body.

The HFCS Controversy

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So we've seen a lot of complaints (both in email and comments on other sites) on how we use sugar cubes to demonstrate the amount of sugar in products that don't actually contain sugar but instead use high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).

We do actually have a disclaimer on the home page discussing this issue. To quote:

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Note: We don't differentiate between different types of sugar - i.e., sucrose, fructose, cane sugar, corn syrup, honey, etc., although there are differences in how these sugars are metabolized. We just used cubes of white sugar as a visual aid.
Now in our defense:

1. The nutritional labeling on products doesn't break the sugar content down into different types. So in many cases, even if we wanted to differentiate the types of sugar, we couldn't.

2. The whole point of this site is to dramatically illustrate how much sugar you are consuming when you put that junk into your mouth. Judging by the response the site is getting, it seems to have worked! We won't apologize for that.

3. All types of sugar may not be created equal, but a lot of the nutritional science here is unsettled, to say the least. Whether a grape is better for you than a piece of candy may not be in dispute, but many would say that a sugar-laden fruit like a grape isn't nearly as good for you as something like a blueberry or strawberry. Even if there is a qualitative difference between classes, there are quantitative differences within classes that we wanted to highlight.

4. Despite possible differences, high fructose corn syrup has A LOT in common with sugar. The illustrations are still valid, even if finer distinctions might be even more informative.

Well, this is quite a sugar rush!

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We launched this site a few days ago and the response has been overwhelming. You're crashing our server with your desire to see stacks of sugar cubes!

We don't think of this site as a joke, though. Most people have no idea what they are putting in their (and their children's) bodies. We're not going to stop developing this site, with this blog, with more articles and features, so please bookmark us, add our RSS feed, and keep up-to-date with our goings on.

You can also follow us on twitter.

About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

June 2009 is the next archive.

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