Ben & Jerry's 'Natural' Claims Still an Issue

ben jerry ice cream labels all naturalIs Ben & Jerry's ice cream health food? Not exactly, though the images of contented cows and bucolic vistas tend to suggest that. In fact, all that goodness is headed for your waistline.

Eat just a half cup (a quarter of the pint) of Americone Dream and you're packing away 270 calories, 15 grams of fat and 65 milligrams of cholesterol. Opt for the Chubby Hubby and it's 340 calories you're packing in (plus 20 grams of fat and 60 milligrams of cholesterol. For a fuller guide to the high-calorie bottom line, visit this site. And to see what's in each container, check this one out.In fairness, it should be noted that not all Ben & Jerry's flavors are created equal. A half cup of Ben & Jerry's sorbet is only 110 calories per half cup, and there is also a low-cal line that offers Chocolate Fudge Brownie at 180 calories per half cup. And they're very tasty, too.

So is this politically correct ice cream "all-natural"? The phrase has no official meaning, but as the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) reported last summer, "At least 48 out of 53 flavors of Ben & Jerry's 'All Natural' ice cream and frozen yogurt contain alkalized cocoa, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean oil or other ingredients that either don't exist in nature or that have been chemically modified."

ben jerry ice cream label all naturalEvidently stung by CSPI's criticism, B&J (now an arm of Unilever and no longer a quaint Vermont family business) fired back last September. "CSPI claimed that we mislabeled our products. We disagree. We have always labeled our products truthfully and transparently, working within the FDA's guidelines. Even CSPI notes that the FDA could be helpful and define natural."

But the ice cream maker also said then that it was indefinitely discontinuing its "all-natural" claims, sending a rather confusing mixed message.

And, in a statement on its website, B&J ducks the core question of why a company that believes in using natural ingredients such as cage-free eggs and rBGH-free milk from family farms also uses unnatural ones. Is there no natural substitute for high-fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soy oil?

"Ben & Jerry's remains committed to using natural ingredients," the company said.

No doubt, but it would be useful to know more about the other things listed on its folksy but fattening ice cream containers.

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