Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Misleading the Public

A recent article in the New York Times focused on the safety of ground beef. Apparently a lot of ground beef includes bits and pieces cut from parts of the animal that are likely to be contaminated with feces, and thus E. coli.

Not all the meat is tested before sale, increasing the chances that you'll get sick from eating it unless you cook it to death.

But another comment in the article didn't seem to arouse much comment. According to the Times article, "To finish off the Smiths’ ground beef, Cargill added bread crumbs and spices, fashioned it into patties, froze them and packed them 18 to a carton."

Bread crumbs? In ground beef? What's going on here?

According to the article, "The listed ingredients revealed little of how the meat was made. There was just one meat product listed: 'Beef.' "

When I first read this, I thought it meant that the only ingredient listed was beef, and I was outraged, thinking of all the people who have wheat allergies that could be triggered by even small amounts of wheat. Other people apparently also read the sentence that way.

But on rereading, I suspected that what the author really meant was that the only kind of meat listed on the label was beef. And I assume the bread crumbs were also listed.

I'm still angry. If I buy ground beef (and I only buy it at the local general store, which I know grinds its own), I expect to get ground beef, not ground beef plus a lot of fillers. And what about people with serious wheat allergies who eat hamburgers at parties, or at restaurants, if the ground beef comes from one of these companies that add bread crumbs to them?

We really can't trust anyone when it comes to food labels.

Another example is the new high-fiber sugar substitute sold under the Splenda label.

One problem with most commercial sugar substitutes is that they because the sugar substitutes are so intensely sweet, they need some kind of bulking agent so you can pour it out of the container. Without the bulking agent, much of the sweetener might stick to the side of the package.

And unfortunately for those of us with diabetes, the bulking agent is often glucose (listed as dextrose, which some people don't realize is the same thing) or maltodextrin, which consists of 3 to 19 glucose molecules strung together and acts essentially the same as glucose in the gut.

So when I saw that Splenda was offering a new "high fiber" form, and the ingredients were simply "soluble corn fiber and sucralose," I was thrilled. At last someone had figured out that you could use fiber instead of maltodextrin or glucose as a bulking agent.

But because I'm not too swift, it took me a bit to notice the nutritional facts, which said there were 2 grams of carbohydrate and 1 gram of fiber. Wait a minute! If only 1 gram is fiber, what is the rest of the carbohydrate?

The other versions of Splenda list 1 gram of carbohydrate, so it looked as if instead of substituting fiber for maltodextrin/glucose, they'd simply added fiber to the regular stuff and not listed the maltodextrin/glucose on the label.

So I wrote to the manufacturers and asked, "Your new Splenda with fiber contains 2 g of carbs and only 1 g of fiber. What is the other gram of carbohydrate? Maltodextrin?"

In response, I got a canned response giving the sugar equivalents for Splenda and never even mentioning the new high-fiber product. So OK, they're not going to help. I searched the Internet for answers.

According to one site, "Corn syrup is being relabeled as "Soluble Corn Fiber" in foods and artificial sweeteners, possibly to avoid consumer health concerns about high fructose corn syrup."

And from the cached page of the company that produces it, Promitor (they've removed the original page), "Soluble Corn Fiber may be labeled as “soluble corn fiber” or alternatively, it may be labeled as “corn syrup” or “corn syrup solids” depending on whether it is liquid or dry."

In other words, they take corn syrup, which includes some soluble fiber, and process it to maximize the amount of fiber and then use that as the bulking agent. Their site says that soluble corn fiber is 70% fiber, so obviously 30% is something else.

The 50:50 breakdown on the label (2 g of carbs and 1 g of fiber), instead of 70:30, is probably due to rounding. If you have 2 g of carbs that are 70% fiber, that would be 1.4 g of fiber, and if you're not using decimal places, this would round to 1. The 0.6 g of nonfiber would also round to 1.

But what isn't fiber is most likely maltodextrin and glucose, but they don't have to say that on the label, and most consumers don't t realize that they're eating corn syrup. I didn't.

Various discussions of the soluble corn fiber note that it can be used for "consumer-friendly labels." I would describe them as "consumer-deceiving labels."

I don't like it when a company tries to deceive me with "consumer friendly" terms, making me think there's no corn syrup in what I'm eating, so I'm not planning to buy any more Splenda.


  1. Thank you for this post. I just bought a box of this stuff yesterday thinking it was better than the regular Splenda, but it's going back. I don't need any more HFCS in my diet.

  2. Aren't you cutting off your nose to spite your face by switching from Splenda fibre/fiber to something else?

    A teaspoonful of the stuff has gone from 2g of digestable carbs to 0.6g of digestable carbs and you're complaining because it isn't 0.0g!

    Why not use tabs, which contain ~0.08g of lactose per tab?

  3. What I'm complaining about is not the amount of carbs, but the deception. When I find that someone isn't being straight with me, I don't trust anything they say.

    The old stuff had 1 g of digestable carbs, not 2, and I only used it in the summer when my raspberries were producing and I needed something not too intense. Otherwise I use stevia.

  4. Fair enough. I would rather ingest 6mg of the relatively stable sucralose than 22mg of the relatively unstable aspartame, or 5g of the relatively TG-increasing sucrose.

    Did the original Splenda granular really have 1g of digestable carbs per teaspoonful? I thought that:-

    a) Maltodextrin is 100% hydrolysed into glucose.
    b) A teaspoonful of original Splenda granular is 0.5g of powder that is 99% maltodextrin + 1% sucralose.

    Does 0.5g of maltodextrin hydrolyse into 1g of glucose?

  5. To Gretchen, re Splenda plus fiber-

    Yes, agree with you. I am the president of a healthy food company and have just come out with a truly all natural sweetener that has zero carbs and measures cup for cup and spoon for spoon like sugar. We use a very expensive prebiotic all natural fiber that is virtually carb free. There are wonderful clinical studies on the taming of digestive disorder symptoms (irritable-bowel, etc.) and is very healthy for the heart, but the unfortunate thing is that this fiber is very expensive which is probably why you will not see it in the mass market arena. Low carb on line distributors will carry it from us but the slotting fees imposed by the supermarkets will surely keep it off the shelves. I am so happy that someone like you is smart enough to read between the lines and know what is going on. Trule low glycemic and low carb natural ingredient foods are hard to come by these days. Maybe that has a lot to do with the national obesity rate and the unhealthiness of our citizens in general.

  6. So I'm confused is this fiber in new Splenda a good thing or not? I have IBS and need to watch my intake of sugar as well im trying to loose weight help!!

  7. Anonymous, the fiber in the new Splenda is apparently just corn syrup. If you're OK eating corn syrup, then it's OK. But I think you'd be better off with regular Splenda, if that's the sweetener you like, plus some added fiber sprinkled on top. Just remember that Splenda, like most artificial sweeteners, contains maltodextrin, which acts like glucose.

    Have you tried stevia?

  8. Why don't you use Stevia? Holy crap! It has been scientifically proven to help regulate blood sugar, completely natural, and with NO harmful side effects. It does take a little getting used to since we have all grown up eating and drinking tons of sugar and corn syrups, but it's well worth the process.

    1. Anonymous, I do use stevia. Bur I don't think it regulates blood sugar to any significant amount, natural is not always safe, and it's difficult to prove that something has *no* side effects.

      The problem with stevia is that it's so sweet that it's difficult to sprinkle on something like raspberries. That's when I want something with a filler.