Another week, another fruit snack exposed. Last week we talked about fruit leathers. Today, Welch’s.
Looking at the front of the package, you have to admire the marketing effort that went into its construction:
Brand name is the most prominent, followed by “Fruit Snacks”.
A “Made with Real Fruit” seal appears with pics of tropical fruit. As if there is such a thing as fake fruit.
A little checklist promises:
* 100% vitamin C (it comes from added ascorbic acid, not from the fruit)
* 25% Vitamin A&E (also added as ingredients)
* Fat Free (most fruit has no fat, so this is pretty obvious)
* Gluten Free (same)
* No Preservatives (an outright lie as Citric Acid and Sodium Citrate are preservatives. Not that they are harmful in any way, but they do help extend the product shelf life)
Another really irritating trick by Welch’s is the use of a tiny and almost colorless font for the wording “Natural and Artificial Flavors” just before the words “Fruit Snacks.” The FDA requires manufacturers to label if a food has added flavors, but since the government agency did not specify font type, the manufacturer does its best to obfuscate the fact that the fruit snack needed a little flavor boost from the lab.
But if you think the little marketing tricks on the front of pack are irritating, wait til you see the ingredient list.
What you need to know:
Here is the ingredient list:
Juice Concentrates (Grape, Pear, peach, passionfruit, And Pineapple), Corn Syrup, Sugar, Modified Corn Starch, Fruit Puree (banana, mango, pineapple, kiwi), Gelatin, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Natural And Artificial Flavor, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Alpha Tocopherol Acetate, Vitamin A palmitate, Sodium Citrate, Coconut Oil, Carnauba Wax, Red #40, Yellow #5, Blue #1.
Nutritionally, this snack is closer to candy than it is to fruit. Candy is fine for kids to have as a treat, but by painting it as a fruit, Welch’s hopes to convince parents to give it to their children much more often.
But we wouldn’t complain about it if it weren’t for the artificial colors. Artificial colors are being phased out in Europe because there is evidence that they may cause hyperactivity in some children. But here in the US, the FDA, pressured by food lobbies, agrees to these colors.
In consumer tests, brightly colored foods sells better than bland colorless products, even if they taste the same. Manufacturers could choose natural color sources such as beet juice. But they are more costly than lab prepared dyes.
What to do at the supermarket:
Be very wary of “Fruit Snacks”. They are more candy than fruit. And if you do buy them as treats for kids, choose those without artificial colors.