To Illustrate a Point (or I Hate Candy Posing as Healthy)
I have written many times about not listening to the things you read on the outside of a package. Ignore the bubbles and the big print. These messages are just there to cover up what they don’t want you to read. To quote the book, ‘You Are Not A Fit Person’:
This food is rich in…
You are going to hear claims all the time that this food is rich in this or full of that. That is normally a way to hide what it is saturated in and they don’t want you to see that. Don’t listen to what a food has a lot of. You don’t need any additional nutrients. You get too many. People talk about the healing qualities of this and the cancer fighting qualities of that, but there is little or no evidence to back any of this up. Certainly there are no silver bullets in any food. If something adds an advantage to long life, say blueberries for example, they don’t add a hell of a lot of an advantage. Think about it, if people who ate blueberries lived 10 years longer, 5 years longer or even 1 year longer on average than other people we would have known a long time ago. They interview tons of centurions about their food and exercise habits. There is no silver bullet. There is nothing that most of them say they do. The only thing that science even agrees on about living a long time is eating plenty of vegetables and getting regular exercise (and maybe drinking a glass of wine a day). So as you look at packaging, ignore the claims of what a food has. YOU DON’T CARE. I can’t stress this enough. Instead of looking at the package and saying, oh, this could be good for me, it has lycopene and lycopene may reduce my risk of cancer, imagine instead that these are ‘ropers’ in a con game to get your money. Each one of these is highlighting a positive so you will ignore the negatives.
Why I bring this up today is that after Christmas we have developed a bit of a candy cupboard. Candy cupboards are a guarantee of unfitness for the unfit. I can hear its siren song from anywhere in the house. My night after I get the kids to bed is relaxing, watching TV, working on this blog, reading a book, possibly exercising, and of course blocking out the constant calling of the candy cupboard. I am successful at many of these tasks, but not so good at ignoring the beckoning of the candy cupboard.
The problem is that we got so much chocolate for Christmas, the whole family did. We are doling out some to the kids, so we started out keeping theirs in this cupboard. Slowly though the amount of candy in the cupboard is growing. My wife is planning on using the extra chocolate for baking (she is an avid baker). I have a whole chocolate-coffee co-dependence thing going on in the evenings. Now that I have brought this up though, I will empty out the candy cupboard this evening and make sure all of the ‘baking chocolate’ is hidden from me. In any case, this isn’t the point of this blog. When I opened the candy cupboard, I came across these:
This bothered me on so many levels. First, I have a personal hate on for these fruit products that are marketed to kids as healthy snacks. Nothing could be further from the truth. I will get into this further in a second as this is the point of this entry, but there was something else bothering me.
My wife bought these for the kids. When I brought up how bad they were, she said that she knew they were bad, but at least they didn’t have any added sugar… First things first, I needed to point out to her that added sugar is the second ingredient in these candies right after fruit juice, and second, even if they didn’t have added sugar it still has tons of sugar (and see the image below of the actual fruit snack and tell me they can make something that candy like without adding sugar). You can read the nutritional infor to discover that each packet is 17 grams and contains 13 grams of sugar! They are over 75% sugar! It has a calorie density of 2.94! Sugar, straight sugar has a calorie density of 4…
As well, I was kind of confused as to why they were in the candy cupboard (They are ridiculously delicious by the way. They are as good as or better than swedish berries or fruit berries, certainly much sweeter. They might actually be too sweet…)? Why buy more candy for the kids if you know it is candy? If you didn’t think it was candy then why put it in the candy cupboard (where I would discover it and eat all of the strawberry flavored packets)?
The hate on…
So, here is the point of the blog entry, how in the world can people market candy to children and parent’s of children as a healthy snack alternative? Why would they do such a thing? Trying to deceive people who are only trying to give their families healthy food is so vile. It is so greedy, yet greed can only explain so much. Greed does not give you a free pass on morally reprehensible behaviors.
These products are designed to make you think they are healthy when they aren’t. To get a better appreciation of the tricks they use, lets look at the packaging:
- Note on the packaging they say made with 66% concentrated fruit juice in the big yellow colored dew drop shape. There are two points to be made about the dew drop, the first one is what I call the Fruit Appeal. This is a classic example of trying to make you think the product is healthy. Eating Fruit is healthy, so fruit juice must be healthy (it isn’t, don’t drink juice, it is as bad for you as pop in almost all cases). If fruit juice is healthy and these things are almost entirely made up of it, then they must be healthy. Concentrated fruit juice is at the end of the day, just sugar. These ‘Florida’s Natural’ people are drowning in fruit juice (they are a Florida growing co-op) and looking for ways to get rid of it. Especially from the fruits that aren’t healthy enough looking to go to market as fruits, and those that look or taste good enough to make it into the juice. Yep, the truly failing fruits make it into the candy. If you squeeze fruit to get the juice, then remove the water, you are essentially left with fructose, which is natural fruit sugar. Don’t be fooled, natural fruit sugar is just sugar, it isn’t better for you because it is natural (all sugar is natural) nor because it comes from fruits. So, when you have enough fruit juice, it is cost effective to distill it into sugar.
- The second point about the dew drop is what I call the ‘Almost All Appeal‘. 66% Fruit Juice. You see this most often with fruit juice. 80% fruit juice, 33% fruit juice, etc. The point of this appeal is to make you think it is made up almost entirely of a healthy item. For some reason when we see something like that, we think, ‘Oh Great, that is so healthy’ instead of the much more rational thought of, ‘Hmmm… I wonder what the other 33% is?’. Seriously, it doesn’t take much bad to make a healthy food unhealthy. I could add 5 grams of straight sugar to 12 grams of fruit juice and fit within these parameters.
- Almost as big in the bottom right hand corner is the message, “All Natural Flavors”. Marketers love the word, ‘Natural’. Somehow, someone has tricked people into thinking that natural is healthy. This might be true if natural were defined as raw, or unprocessed and could only be applied to a product as a whole, but it doesn’t. Again it is the same as fruit juice. People apply connotations to natural that are inappropriate and incorrect. You can make straight sugar in a natural fashion, ie, dehydrated cane juice but that sugar will make you just as fat as refined sugar. The energy systems of your body can’t tell the difference, your blood sugar level doesn’t know which source the sugar is from, the pancreas is equally as unaware, so when the insulin floods your body and stores this sugar as fat, your new fat cells have no more idea of the source of their creation as any other part of your body. You may be right to think that unnatural things carry with them other health risks, but this isn’t the same thing as thinking all natural things are healthy. They aren’t. If you see ‘all natural’ and immediately think ‘all healthy’ you are in for a tough road to fitness. I call this one the ‘All Natural Logic Trick‘. Finally, note that only the flavors are all natural in this product. Again, going back to point 2, that should actually be a warning, not an attraction.
- Fruit and Fruit Juice Snacks. Yep, under the word nugget, they claim this is a fruit snack…. I am sorry, but just because you began with the raw material of fruit before you processed all of the sugar out of it and mixed it with more sugar and then packaged it up, that does not make this a fruit snack. Had they done the opposite. Had they built these up from fructose, water, glucose (standard sugar) and natural fruit flavors, they could not put that label on this package, yet it would be the same product at the end of the day. Does this mean that I can start calling things made with beet sugar vegetable products? I could launch my new ‘vegetable snack’ line. Made with 20% real vegetable juice (evaporated sugar beet juice). Parent’s will be shocked at how easy it is to get kids to eat their servings of vegetables… I would laugh but seriously, this is so sad we should be crying for the North American Public. This is the ‘Processed Raw Material Scam‘.
- There are some missing items on this package but shown on other Florida’s Natural candies so I will include a couple of other package photos to get through the most egregious packaging scams. Along with all natural, you quite often see organic (the ‘If it’s Organic, it’s obviously good for you’ ploy). If you are looking for candy and you want organic candy, then pick the following version of this ‘fruit snack’, but don’t think that makes this healthy, it is still candy, plain and simple. Here are the nutritional facts on this product and it is truly disturbing, with 19 grams of ‘naturally occurring’ sugar and an additional 16 grams of added sugar, bringing the calorie density up to a whopping 3.33.
- The Servings Scam: 1 serving of fruit. Yep, the organic product above states that it has one serving of fruit. I discussed this issue in a previous post. I think I covered it there, but the idea is that you don’t want a serving of fruit in your candy, you want a serving of fruit instead of eating the candy. From crackers that state they have a serving of vegetables, to pastas that claim the same to candies that say they have servings of fruit, you would have to be blind not to see the problem here.
- The Vitamin trick: A great source of or a% of your daily vitamins and minerals. This is the same as point 6 above, just packaged a different way. Sugar cereals and these candy products are always suggesting that you should eat them to get your vitamins. How about eating fruit instead… Eating candy to get your vitamins is bad. Have we become so pathetic as people that we need a spoon full of sugar to get our vitamins down?
I can’t believe that Florida’s Natural has products to pick up all of the packaging scams. They are at the top of their game. Of course there is one thing about their packaging that I didn’t bring up…yet….
Did you notice how friendly those fruits are on the package? It is like they are begging kids to take them home and eat them. There is Ogilvie the orange, with his big droopy eyelids sometimes winking with a stem attachment thingy (no idea what this is called) as the eye, and sometimes as the nose(?). Who could resist Ogilvie’s dim witted appeal with his big open slobbering mouth? There is Stanley the strawberry with his pointy chin and massive happy smile. Of course his eyes are covered by his rascally big mop of green hair(?), yet you can always see his disturbing nose growth… Stanley is the life of the Florida’s Natural candy party. Don’t forget the supporting cast of the Blueberry Family. Always swarming the other fruits and smiling, ready to be gobbled up… (I am not sure if these fruits are already named, I would hate to give the impression that these are the ‘kid friendly’ names developed by Florida’s Natural. The names and personalities listed above, for the fruits on the packages of these products was dreamed up by me alone. I can just see the letter now from Florida’s Natural’s lawyers saying that I was diluting their trade characters by giving them the wrong names.)
Tell me that the company didn’t go to a graphic design company and say, ‘We want something friendly that appeals to kids’…. I just can’t believe that they aren’t directly marketing their addictive candy to children and misleading the public about the qualities of their food… Oh, wait a minute…. That reminds me of something… marketing addictive substances to children… A friendly looking cartoon on the package… intentionally misleading people as to the health qualities of a product…. nope, can’t quite put my finger on it. Oh well, maybe I can figure it out while I go outside and have a smoke…
All joking aside, it is wrong plain and simple to market candy to parents and children as healthy fruit snacks. How you people sleep at night is anyone’s guess. If you look at the TV at night and are shocked by the Bernie Madoffs of the world, if you watch the news and hear that obesity just overtook smoking as the number one deadly lifestyle choice, remember. The enemy is you.
I don’t mean to just pick on Florida’s Natural here, all of the following are just as bad or worse (in most cases much worse):
- Annie’s Homegrown Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks (nutrtional info)
- Fruit Gushers (nutritional Info) I forgot the low fat scam and gluten free scam, but they didn’t!!
- Fruit Roll ups (nutritional info)
- Fruit Shapes (nutritional info) Oh my god General Mills, to you I doff my cap!! I hadn’t even thought of licensing the product with friendly kids TV characters!! Brilliant. If kids can’t trust the characters from their friendly preschool TV shows then who can they trust!!
- Fruit by the foot (nutritional info) These last four are all brought to us by General Mills, cooked up by the loving hands of Betty Crocker….
- Welch’s Fruit Snacks Although I could not find the nutritional information, take note that they are an excellent lunchbox treat and they have a reduced sugar option that meets the ‘stricter requirements for snacks sold in schools’. Thank god they can still get their products into the schools…
So, in closing I would just like to thank Florida’s Naturals, General Mills and Welch’s, specifically for making candy all the more a part of our children’s daily diet. Thank you for creating more vehicles for delivering sugar to our children. If I haven’t thanked the US, Canadian and UK Governments lately for bowing to the pressure of the sugar lobbies, please consider this a special thank you. I love the fact that the people we elect to government are concerned about our well being rather than a small subsection who earns Billions of dollars off of what is considered the worst health issue in the industrialized world. I got such a kick out of that Senator that tweeted Jillian Michaels after the finale of last seasons Biggest Loser to say something to the effect of ‘together we are beating this obesity epidemic…’.
I am betting they are setting up another Congress Sub-Committee to figure out why kids are obese even as we speak. I hope they can solve this canundrum… In the meantime, when you are in your grocery store, talk to the manager. Tell him or her that you don’t appreciate candy being in the snack aisle. Ask them to move it. If enough of us do so, we can at least get the product to the right aisle and that is a step in the right direction. Read some of these reviews and you will realize that although you may be aware these are candy, many people aren’t (here, here, here and here).
I love this cartoon from http://www.naturalnews.com by the way. Click on the image to see the article that they have written to accompany the cartoon. I would love to hear your opinion in the comments section as I feel this practice is genuinely disingenuous, but others may not.