Nuts and fruit are quite a good snack combination. They provide a good mix of healthy fats, protein, fiber, and vitamins and minerals with a relatively low sugar content. That’s why we like the Planters line of NUT-rition products. One of the products, called Antioxidant Mix, seems even healthier than the other claiming that it is a “good source of vitamin C”.
And according to the nutrition facts panel, the vitamin C content is 6 micrograms, or exactly 10% of the recommended daily value. 10% is also the minimum threshold the FDA has set for a claim “good source of vitamin C”.
But here’s the problem – vitamin C is a tricky one. It evaporates almost instantly once the whole food is processed. Drying fruit takes away all the vitamin C it has. That’s why many processed foods have added vitamin C in their ingredient list (also listed as ascorbic acid).
Not this product though:
Almonds, Sugar, Dried Banana, Dried Peaches, Cashews, Dried Blueberries, Vegetable Oil (Coconut, Sunflower, Peanut and/or Cottonseed Oil), Dried Cranberries, Citric Acid (for Tartness), Natural Flavor.
What this nut mix does have, though, is lots of added sugars. As you can see in the list above, there is more sugar than dried banana, or cashews or blueberries. The added citric acid is NOT vitamin C.
Eager to discover the source of vitamin C, we contacted the manufacturer:
Dear Planters – Our family is a big fan of nut and dried fruit mixes! I wanted to ask about your Nut-rition Antioxidant mix product. (http://www.planters.com/varieties/nutrition-information.aspx?Site=1&Product=2900001437)
According to the package – it is a good source of vitamin C. But I don’t see how that could be.
Dried fruit usually retains little to no vitamin C, and you have not added any ascorbic acid to the product. Can you please explain how you were able to maintain such a high level of vitamin C in the product?
About a week later, we received an email reply from Robot Kim. Why robot? Read below and you’ll understand:
Thank you for visiting http://www.planters.com/.
At this time Vitamin C is found in fruits and vegetables and is highest in fresh, and uncooked foods.
Vitamin C is one of the least stable vitamins, cooking can destroy much of this water-soluble vitamin from the food. The best-known sources of vitamin C are the citrus fruits, oranges, lemons, limes, tangerines, and grapefruits. Good vegetable sources include red and green peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tomatoes and asparagus.
If you haven’t done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!
Associate Director, Consumer Relations
Well, that automated reply triggered by the words “Vitamin C” surely did not help. We immediately sent a reply to Kim, associate director, asking to get a human answer to the question we asked. We have yet to hear back.
The problem with this label, and potentially thousands of others, is that we rely on them to make informed food choices. If the vitamin C content is not 10%, but lower, Planters will not be allowed to blast “good source of vitamin C” on the front of pack. That may make us decide to pick a different product. And that’s why this reply from Kim was upsetting.
Unfortunately, the FDA does not have the resources to go after food manufacturers posting erroneous nutrient information. Some may be using this to gain an unfair marketing advantage.
Have you seen products whose ingredient or nutrients seem fishy to you? Let us know, and we’ll take a deeper look for you…