This is a guest blog post by Carol Harvey, Director of food/nutrition labeling and product development at Palate Works.
Q: When does a granola cereal have only 120 calories?
A: When it’s labeled with the wrong serving size.
Glutenfreeda has a line of great tasting granola that is gluten-free, but it’s products are also free from proper labeling.
We’re going to need a large bowl for this…
1. The Nutrition Facts panel uses 28 grams as a serving size, rather than the 55 grams required by the FDA for dense cereals (including pretty much all granolas). This would almost double all the nutrition values (calories, fat, sugar, fiber, etc).
2. But wait… the granola is packaged in 4 individual “travel packs.” This changes the serving size to one packet (80 g of granola) … so, the Nutrition Facts data should actually be almost 3x what is shown.
3. The Ingredient List is shown on a different panel of the package than the Nutrition Facts. It is supposed to be on the same panel… preferably right below the Nutrition Facts.
4. The ingredients list uses parentheses incorrectly to indicate sub-ingredients. For example, cashews are indicated as “cashews (salt)”, which would mean the cashews contain only salt, no cashews. Parentheses are for showing the complete sub-ingredients in a multi-ingredient ingredient, meaning salted cashews should be indicated as “cashews (cashews, salt)”. The cranberries have the same problem: “dried cranberries (sugar, sunflower oil)”. The cranberries should be inside the parentheses also. OK… this one is a little picky, but without consistency in labeling protocol there would be confusion (especially when app algorithms are checking/evaluating labels to compare products).
5. The back of the package makes three nutrient claims: “great source of fiber”, “high in omega-3 fatty acids” and “nutritious” (see 2nd image above). Nutrient claims must be substantiated by the Nutrition Facts panel, but since it shows only 2 g fiber (8% of Daily Value), the fiber claim can’t be made (great source = high in = at least 20% DV). The omega-3 claim is what’s called an “implied claim,” because the statement that flax seeds are “known to be high in omega-3” implies that the granola itself is high in omega-3 fatty acids. The package has no data for omega-3 (i.e., it isn’t substantiated), so this claim can’t be made either. But it’s unlikely it would meet the criteria anyway, since there is very little flax seed (next-to-last ingredient), not to mention the seeds are whole (vs. ground), meaning they will pass through your system without those fatty acids being put to use. “Nutritious” is another implied claim (= healthy, which also has criteria that aren’t met here).
6. Remember the salted cashews? What happened to the salt? The Nutrition Facts for the granola shows 0 mg sodium – impossible if the cashews are salted.
To recap: One foot shot (the good nutrients – fiber, protein and iron – are at least 2x higher than shown), several stuck in the mouth, and maximum use of food marketing buzzwords. Quick… cover it up with some milk/kefir/etc. and make a mental note when comparing this product with ones that use the correct serving size.
Carol Harvey has been a nutrition labeling and product development consultant for over 15 years. She can be reached at palatemail [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.