Category Archives: Artificial Flavors

Just because it isn’t artificial doesn’t mean it’s natural

h-mcdonalds-Iced-Strawberry-Lemonade-SmallThere are millions of thirsty people walking around in the summer who aren’t interested in quenching their thirst with a soda. Some of them are simply looking for a more natural way to quench their thirst in the heat. They’re thinking about beverages like brewed iced tea or fresh made lemonade and then they walk past McDonald’s and they feel like the fast food giant has read their mind.

McDonald’s “hand-shaken” Strawberry Lemonade. Oh, and look at that, they’re promoting that this new beverage contains no artificial flavors. This is great! wants to remind you that the buyer should beware. Let’s take a closer look at what’s going on with McDonald’s new Strawberry Lemonade.

Nutrition Facts:
Calories:             160
Fat:                      0 grams
Sugar:                 37 grams

These nutrition facts are for the medium-sized drink. So you’ll find over 9 teaspoons of sugar in a 17.6 oz. serving. Picture that for a minute. You’ve got a 17.6 oz. beverage in front of you with a teaspoon and a sugar bowl and you’re stirring in more than 9 teaspoons of sugar. The thought probably feels very strange after the second teaspoon is stirred in.

Now what about that great claim McDonald’s is making about not using any artificial flavors?

LEMONADE BASE: Water, Sugar, Lemon Juice Concentrate, Lemon Pulp, Natural Flavor (Plant Source). CONTAINS: MILK* STRAWBERRY CONCENTRATE: Water, Strawberry Puree, Sugar, Natural Flavors (Plant, Honey Sources). LEMON WEDGE, STRAWBERRIES: Ingredients: Strawberries, Konjac Flour.

So, there are no artificial flavors used in the recipe. There are, however, natural flavors. Natural flavors are simply derived from “natural sources.” The flavors themselves aren’t necessarily natural. Think about natural vanilla flavor which is derived from the glands that reside by the anus of a beaver. Those beaver glands are considered a natural source, so the product that contains that natural vanilla flavor can claim that it contains no artificial flavors. We still wouldn’t want to eat it, but those are the rules.

The point is McDonald’s new Strawberry Lemonade has a lot of very natural, very flavorful ingredients. But for some reason, McDonald’s doesn’t think they’re flavorful enough and includes Natural Flavors in the recipe. While they can legally claim that they aren’t using artificial flavors, it’s not exactly the most transparent statement ever made.

That iced cold beverage we were craving? We’re going to keep looking. Sorry, McDonald’s.

No more artificial flavors and colors for General Mills

TrixIf you are among the many thousands of parents who desperately avoid the cereal aisle when your little ones are shopping with you, you’re not alone. That cereal aisle is a mine field full of sugar and artificial everything. has done our fair share of wrangling with small children to remove that box of Lucky Charms from their tight grip. We know the story. The kids see the cereal on a television commercial. They play branded games on the cereal’s website. They come with you to the store and the boxes of the cereals we don’t want our kids to have are the ones that are easiest for them to reach. The packaging is brightly colored and features fun characters the kids are already familiar with. And then you’ve got a problem.

General Mills is the latest food manufacturer committed to helping you with that problem by 2017 Trix, Lucky Charms and other iconic cereals are getting a natural upgrade in the latest bid by a major food company to create healthier products.

General Mills (GIS) said Monday that it will phase out artificial flavors and colors from all of its cereals by 2017. The announcement is the latest from an ever-growing group of food retailers vowing to ax artificial ingredients, including Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Panera, Kraft Foods Group and Subway.

“We’ve continued to listen to consumers who want to see more recognizable and familiar ingredients on the labels and challenged ourselves to remove barriers that prevent adults and children from enjoying our cereals,” said Jim Murphy, president of General Mills cereal division, in a statement.

Packaged-food companies are losing market share and seeing revenue fall as consumers turn toward brands known for less processed, simpler, more authentic food. Many companies are trying to draw back customers’ attention by redoing products with fewer complex ingredients and taking stands against additives like antibiotics in meat.

Those that don’t will likely lose customers, says Kelly O’Keefe, a brand management professor at Virginia Commonwealth University.

“They need to be investing, they need to be changing out their product lines with better ingredients and they need to do it very quickly,” he says. “In the next two to three years, if you’re not moving in the right direction you’re going to see those brands fading rapidly into obscurity.”

General Mills cereals such as Trix and Reese’s Puffs will now be made with fruit and vegetable juices and natural vanilla. Trix will lose some colors in the process. The company began reformulating it about three years ago, and when the new version rolls out this winter, it will have just four colors instead of six. Blue and green didn’t make the cut because the company hasn’t identified a suitable natural alternative.

“We’re continuing to work on them, but they didn’t deliver on that vibrant color that we expect from Trix,” says Kate Gallager, a General Mills cereal developer. Reese’s Puffs, also rolling out this winter, will no longer be artificially colored, but Gallager says the difference is barely noticeable. The recipe changes will only affect cereals sold in the U.S. and Canada.

General Mills, whose cereals include Corn Chex, Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Wheaties and Fiber One, declined to say how much it’s investing to upgrade ingredients, but the cost won’t be passed along to consumers, says spokesman Mike Siemienas.

Though consumers will likely eventually have to pay for all the ingredient changes food companies are making, O’Keefe says.

“(Companies) might be willing to take a slightly shallower profit for a couple years, but ultimately, if they’re not passing along the cost to the consumers, they’re not staying in business.”

Artificial ingredients are already absent from 60% of General Mills cereals, the company said. They either never had them or they were already replaced.

Reformulating cereals with marshmallows will be a focus next year, says the company, adding this may take longer than grain-heavy cereals. General Mills plans to have more than 90% of the cereal portfolio artificial-free by the end of 2016, with 100% free by the end of 2017.

The hardest part about switching from artificial ingredients to natural ingredients is maintaining consistent flavor and texture, according to Gallager. Natural dyes like turmeric for yellow, paprika for red and fruit and vegetable concentrates can sometimes impart too much flavor or don’t produce colors that are as bold.

Beyond cereal, General Mills says it’s already transforming multiple product lines to make them healthier.

So by 2017, Lucky Charms will be magically delicious without artificial colors and flavors. Depending on the other ingredients, you may or may not decide to allow for the inclusion of that adorable leprechaun in your food pantry. But you will have a little less to worry about. And grocery shopping with the kids may get a little easier.

Subway gets fresher dropping artificial flavors, colors and preservatives by 2017

Subway IngredientsOver the years, we’ve come to associate Subway with its “Eat Fresh” slogan. The chain has always been portrayed as a healthier option, setting itself apart from burgers and chicken sandwiches and french fries. And we all remember Jared Fogle … the “Subway guy” who lost a significant amount of weight eating Subway turkey subs and has kept that weight off almost 20 years later. But even with all that, Subway has always been a fast food chain of sorts, fresher food or not, as evidenced by some of the not-so-healthy ingredients in their foods.

But Subway is also a chain that has listened to its consumers. In early 2014, Subway announced the removal of azodicarbonamide from its breads and rolls. That was a big step and went a long way to justify that “Eat Fresh” slogan.

Now Subway wants you to eat even fresher at its locations.

The sandwich chain told the Associated Press it will remove artificial flavors, colors and preservatives from its menu in North America by 2017. Whether that can help Subway keep up with changing attitudes about what qualifies as healthy remains to be seen.

Elizabeth Stewart, Subway’s director of corporate social responsibility, said in an interview that ingredient improvement has been an ongoing process over the years. More recently, she said the chain has been working on removing caramel color from cold cuts like roast beef and ham. For its turkey, Subway says it plans to replace a preservative called propionic acid with vinegar by the end of this year.

Among its toppings, Stewart said Subway is switching to banana peppers colored with turmeric instead of the artificial dye Yellow No. 5. Without providing details, she said the chain is also working on its sauces and cookies.

The purging of artificial ingredients is quickly becoming the norm among major food companies, which are facing pressure from smaller players that tout their offerings as more wholesome.

Subway is facing evolving definitions for what qualifies as healthy, said Darren Tristano, an analyst for Technomic. While older generations looked at nutritional stats like fat and calories, he said younger generations are more concerned about qualities like “local,” ”organic” and “natural.”

“Change has come so fast and rapidly, consumers are just expecting more and more,” Tristano said.

And although Subway markets itself as a fresher option, he noted that people don’t necessarily see it as the healthiest or best product around.

Tony Pace, Subway’s chief marketing officer, noted the chain is already seen as a place for low-fat options, but that it needs to keep up with changing customer attitudes.
“As their expectations go up, we have to meet those expectations,” he said.

Pace said the use of simple ingredients is becoming a “necessary condition” to satisfy customers, but that it won’t be enough on its own to drive up sales.

Subway is continuing to listen to the voices of its consumers. is confident that those consumers will appreciate their efforts to improve the quality and healthfulness of the foods they serve. Every food manufacturer, fast food chain and fast casual chain needs to remember the old adage, “the customer is always right,” and act accordingly.

Where rocky doesn’t meet the road … new Rocky Road Iced Coffee from Dunkin Donuts

1426141519371Rocky road ice cream. Rich chocolate ice cream laden with nuts and marshmallows. For many, this is a comforting childhood memory. So it’s no surprise that Dunkin Donuts saw an opportunity to capitalize on that memory and introduce their new Rocky Road Iced Coffee.

How did Dunkin manage to get the flavors of nuts and marshmallows into coffee? thought that was a great question, so we did a little investigating.

As far as flavored iced coffees are concerned the new Rocky Road Iced Coffee is similar in nutrition facts. Here are the numbers for a medium with cream (the numbers for whole milk and skim milk aren’t yet available on their website):

Calories:             260
Fat:                      12 grams
Sugar:                 36 grams

Still too much sugar going on, but that’s common for a beverage like this one.

Let’s move onto the ingredient list and see if we can find out how these flavors were incorporated into the new coffee:

Brewed 100% Arabica Coffee; Rocky Road Flavored Swirl Syrup: High Fructose Corn Syrup, Water, Sugar, Cocoa processed with alkali, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative), Salt.

And there you have it. Rocky doesn’t meet the road in the new Dunkin Rocky Road Iced Coffee. It’s all about artificial and natural flavors.

Like many flavored products, Rocky Road Iced coffee isn’t getting its flavor from the actual ingredients that are used to make traditional rocky road ice cream. We like the flavors in our coffee (and our food) to come from what the flavor is supposed to be — in this case nuts and marshmallows. Since they don’t, we won’t be trying it.

Skippy Salted Caramel Peanut Butter. Proceed with Caution.

B883xGBIEAQnnXgIf you’re a caramel lover, no doubt you were excited when you read about the newest Skippy Peanut Butter. And we’ll admit it, Skippy Salted Caramel Peanut Butter does sound really promising. But we’ve been looking around for reviews and is sad to report that most of them aren’t what we thought they’d be.

There’s a lot of talk about a bitter coffee-like aftertaste. There are complaints about unmet expectations about the look of the product. It appears most consumers imagined tradition Skippy creamy peanut butter with a thick swirl of salted caramel running through it. Instead it looks just like regular peanut butter.

For, the look of the product was a bad omen to the ingredient list. Think about it, if there was actual caramel in the product, it probably would have been swirled through it. And sadly, we were right about that. There’s no caramel in here. So there’s nothing to swirl.

So what’s in there exactly?

Calories:                    190
Fat:                             16 grams
Sodium:                     230 mg
Sugar                         3 grams

Pretty typical for peanut butter.

Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts, Sugar, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Cottonseed, Soybean and Rapeseed Oil) To Prevent Separation, Salt, Flavoring.

Skippy Salted Caramel Peanut Butter is flavored peanut butter and that’s exactly what’s in there: flavoring. It’s salted caramel peanut butter without any salted caramel.

Shame on you Skippy. Instead of thick ribbons of salted caramel that we get to mix in ourselves, you’ve given us chemicals. Not really happy about this one.

How many blueberries do you think you’ve eaten that haven’t really been blueberries?

bluebberiesTurns out that this is a really good question. And if you’ve never wondered about it, don’t worry, there are people who already have. Many of those little blue specs that decorate a variety of muffins, bagels, cereals and bars aren’t actual blueberries. They can simply be sugar, corn syrup and food coloring rolled into small clumps that kind of resemble berries or in some less offensive cases, they can be sugars, and some different fruit juices that can include blueberry. Either way, images of blueberries shouldn’t be gracing the packaging.

A while back, Natural News did some investigating and found many half-truths (or total lies) in blueberry snacks when they compared pictures of fresh berries from the package to what’s actually inside.

Here are a few disappointing blueberry products to look out for.

Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix
No blueberries in the ingredient list.

Quaker Blueberries & Cream Instant Oatmeal
Here we have some blueberry concentrate, listed after the dried figs, corn syrup solids, starch, and sugar. They’re called blueberry pieces.

Kellogg’s Special K Blueberry Bars
These feature “blueberry-flavored fruit pieces.” They’re made of cranberries blueberry juice from concentrate, sunflower oil and grape juice.

Pillsbury Blueberry Biscuits and Muffins
No blueberries at all — just sugar and food coloring.

Kellogg Mini Wheats Blueberry
No blueberries. No blueberry juice. No fruit at all.

Panera Blueberry Bagels
Somehow or another Panera’s blueberry bagels didn’t warrant the use of actual berries, while the blueberry muffins and blueberry scones did. Go figure. The “blueberry-flavored bits” contain sugar, flour, corn syrup and food coloring as well as “infused blueberries.” We can’t tell you what those actually are.

Hungry Jack Blueberry Pancake Mix
This pancake mix boasts “artificial blueberry bits” more commonly known as sugar and food coloring.

Yoplait Light Blueberry Pie Yogurt
Natural and artificial flavors, Red 40 and Blue 1 allow you to think you’re seeing and tasting real blueberries.

Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai & Blueberry
These berry sized treats are a bit better than the other products we’re listing. The centers are created from a variety of fruit concentrates and blueberry IS one of them. The juices appear to be thickened with corn syrup and sugar.

Quaker Wild Blueberry Crisps
Quaker could have really done a better job. No blueberry. No fruit juice. Just natural and artificial flavors.

Some fake blueberry flavoring is obviously better than others. At the end of the day, though, none of these blueberry products are really blueberry products. thinks this serves as a great reminder for everyone to read ingredient lists, all the time — no matter what the brand might be or what images appear on the packaging.

There’s an all-important ingredient missing from Starbucks famous Pumpkin Spice Latte … and it’s not the espresso

starbucks (1)You probably can guess that has the utmost respect and admiration for Food Babe, Vani Hari. She’s never afraid to take on food manufacturers and challenge them to change. Her efforts have led to many successes that are helping consumers enjoy healthier options. Hari’s writing has prompted petitions that forced Subway to remove azodicarbonamide from its bread, criticized pizza chains for using MSG, and even convinced Chick-fil-A to phase out chicken given antibiotics.

Hari’s latest investigation is aimed at Starbucks, specifically its pumpkin spice latte, with an August 25 blog post titled “You’ll never guess what’s in a Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. (Hint: You won’t be happy).”

As with many of her investigations, the Food Babe’s most pressing concern begins with Starbucks’ failure to disclose ingredients for all of its beverages online. Hari writes:

While they list some ingredients on their website, they still do not list the ingredients in their most popular items: their drinks! This includes all of their lattes, frappuccinos, macchiatos, smoothies, etc.

Indeed, lists the ingredients only for all its food items — but no beverages. However, the issue is something the company says it’s working to amend.

“With more than 170,000 ways to customize your Starbucks beverage, listing ingredients can be very complex. We’ve been working on listing our core beverage recipes online via, same as we do with our food, and hope to have an update in the near future,” a media spokesperson said Wednesday via email.

The Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice Latte is a superstar in the coffee world. It has millions of afficionados. Consumers wait patiently for the beverage to reappear in Starbucks locations nationwide every fall. Unfortunately, it appears that it lacks an all-important ingredient. There’s no actual pumpkin in the beverage.

In her post, Hari goes on to list several “harmful” ingredients found in Starbucks’ most popular beverage, the PSL, including IV caramel coloring, Monsanto milk, pesticide residue, artificial flavors, preservatives, and sulfites.

The ingredient list reads as follows:

Milk, Espresso (Water, Brewed Espresso Coffee), Pumpkin Spice Flavored Sauce (Sugar, Condensed Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup or Sweetened Condensed Nonfat Milk (Milk, Sugar), Annatto (for color), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color (class IV), Salt, Potassium Sorbate (preservative)), Whip Cream (Whipping Cream, Starbucks Vanilla Syrup (Sugar, Water, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate, Citric Acid, Caramel Color (class IV)), Pumpkin Spice Topping: Cinnamon, Ginger, Nutmeg, Clove, Sulfites.

While Starbucks did not respond to questions about the Food Babe’s pumpkin spice latte blog post — including whether it has affected the company’s decision to make any changes to the drink — the media representative confirmed that the company is actively working to remove the caramel coloring from its beverage syrup.

“We are actively looking at phasing out caramel coloring, though we don’t have timing to share,” the media spokesperson said. “In any instances where it is used in our beverages, the level is well below the No Significant Risk Level (NSRL) and safe to consume.”

While Hari’s claim that the Starbucks pumpkin spice latte contains absolutely no real pumpkin is also true, it appears Starbucks is going with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” stance. According to the spokesperson, the coffee giant won’t be giving in on that one anytime soon.

“The idea behind the Pumpkin Spice Latte has always been to have an espresso-forward beverage, which is core to what Starbucks is known for, infused with pumpkin-inspired flavors and spices of the fall season,” she said. “The PSL has become the company’s most popular seasonal beverage of all time, and we have no plans to change the recipe.”

So, if we’ve got this right, Starbucks most popular, widely embraced fall beverage will continue to offer consumers the great taste of pumpkin without ever including any pumpkin in its ingredient list. It was designed to bring you the taste of pumpkin with natural and artificial flavor (not to mention at least a few other questionable ingredients) and it’s just fine the way it is. Except for the caramel coloring — which Starbucks is “working on” replacing, but isn’t ready to do quite yet.

Hmmm. Kind of makes you wonder how the Pumpkin Spice Latte managed to rise to its current stratospheric level of popularity. Go Food Babe.

Ice cream that doesn’t melt, courtesy of Wal-Mart’s Great Value brand

Wal-Mart-Magic-665x385There are certain things in the world we take for granted. The sun rises in the morning and sets in the evening. Summer is baseball season. Leaves turn color in the fall. Fourth of July brings fireworks shows. And ice cream melts.

Oops, we better cross that last one off the list.

Just over a week ago, a concerned mother in Ohio made big news of the fact that Wal-Mart’s Great Value ice cream sandwiches lack the ability to do what all the others can: melt.

Christie Watson just told WCPO in Cincinnati that her son recently left one of the unwrapped Wal-Mart sandwiches outside in 80 degree F heat for 12 hours and it hadn’t melted.

“I thought that’s quite weird,” she said. “So I looked at the box, and it doesn’t say artificial ice cream. It says ice cream.”

The same thing happened to another sandwich that Watson then left out overnight. She said, “Monday I came out and looked at it, and there was still ice cream there. So I thought to myself: What am I feeding to my children?”

So WCPO, as broadcasters are wont to do, performed its own more extensive experiment, leaving one of the Wal-Mart ice cream sandwiches out in the sun for a few hours, along with a Klondike bar and a pint of Haagen-Dazs.

Not surprisingly, reported the station, “The Wal-Mart sandwich [shown above], though it melted a bit, remained the most solid in appearance, and still looked like a sandwich.”

The others melted away. that might be because the others don’t contain the additives that Wal-Mart’s ice cream sandwich do.

According to a cursory look at Wal-Mart’s website, Great Value sandwiches contain just sugar, milk, cream, buttermilk, whey and corn syrup. But Wal-Mart’s product also contains “1 percent or less of mono- and diglycerides, vanilla extract, guar gum, calcium sulfate, carob bean gum, cellulose gum, carrageenan, artificial flavor and annatto for color.”

Just like the no-drip ice cream that Cold Stone Creamery introduced in 2009, Wal-Mart’s sandwiches make use of a modified food starch that makes their ice cream more like pudding.

“The modified food starch that sets instant pudding caused the resulting blend to gel rather than liquefy,” New York Magazine reported about Cold Stone’s product.

Wal-Mart wasn’t very forthcoming about the additives though. It released the following statement that totally avoided the subject:

“Ice cream melts based on the ingredients including cream. Ice cream with more cream will generally melt at a slower rate, which is the case with our Great Value ice cream sandwiches. In the frozen aisles, Great Value ice cream sandwiches are one of the top sellers, and we are glad to be able to offer a great treat that families love.”

What Wal-Mart is trying to say that their ice cream contains more cream than, Haagen Dazs. This isn’t very likely since Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream contains just five ingredients: Cream, Milk Nonfat, Sugar, Eggs Yolks, Vanilla Natural. Great Value Ice Cream Sandwiches (also containing vanilla ice cream) contain 51 ingredients. That’s right — 51. Here’s the list from the site:

Ice Cream: Milk, Cream, Sugar, Corn Syrup,Buttermilk, Whey, Mono and Diglycerides, Guar Gum,Calcium Sulphate, Carob Bean Gum, Polysorbate 65,Carrageenan, Flavors Natural, Annatto, Ice Cream,Milk, Cream, Sugar, Corn Syrup, Buttermilk, Whey,Mono and Diglycerides, Guar Gum, Calcium Sulphate,Carob Bean Gum, Polysorbate 65, Annatto, Added For Color, Baking Soda, Caramel Color, Carrageenan,Cocoa, Corn Syrup, Cottonseed Oil Partially Hydrogenated, ), Soybeans Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Vegetables Shortening, (, Corn Flour Yellow, Mono and Diglycerides, Flavors Natural, Chocolate Wafer, :, Corn Sugar, Corn Starch Modified, Flour Unenriched Bleached

We’re pretty positive that the reason the Great Value ice cream sandwiches don’t melt has absolutely nothing to do with the idea that they contain more cream. Oh — and we also don’t want to eat ice cream with 51 ingredients.

Nope, in our world, we want the fact that ice cream melts to remain on the list of things we take for granted that will never, ever change. We also don’t want to have to repeat Christie Watson’s question, “What am I feeding my kids?” and come up with an answer that’s 51 ingredients long.

Panera Bread jumps on the healthier food bandwagon committing to remove artificial ingredients by 2016!

Panera Bread to Remove Artificial IngredientsGreat news for Panera Bread fans: the popular fast casual chain is the latest to take a big step towards healthier menu offerings. It has announced that by 2016, artificial additives will be removed from its menu including major ingredients like artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors and preservatives.

“We believe simpler is better,” Scott Davis, chief concept officer said in a news release. “Panera is on a mission to help fix a broken food system. We have a long journey ahead, but we’re working closely with the nutrition community, industry experts, farmers, suppliers and others to make a difference.”

Panera will be taking artificial colors out of its roast beef, maltodextrin and potassium lactate will be removed from the citrus pepper chicken, and horseradish will lose the calcium disodium EDTA.Trans-fats will be removed from the bakery menu items as well.

The announcement is the latest in a string of similar moves from competing fast food chain outlets. Subway recently announced it was removing azodicarbonamide from its bread. The controversial chemical is also found in shoes and yoga mats.

Chick-fil-A also made the announcement that it was cleaning up its menu by reducing ingredients including dyes, HFCS and antibiotics in its popular chicken sandwiches after Vani Hari, the blogger known as “Food Babe” pressured the chain.

And then there’s Chipotle—the poster chain for “healthy” fast food. While Chipotle has been on the clean meat and local produce angle for a while now, it recently made a big step in removing genetically modified ingredients from almost all of its menu items as well as adding vegan sofritos to its offerings. is always happy to hear of another fast food chain making the committment to work towards a cleaner, healthier menu. Panera Bread is an exceptionally popular chain with a solid reputation among consumers. While there menu options have always been thought of as fresher and healthier than many other available options, we’re certainly well aware of the poor ingredients included in so many of Panera’s dishes, tasty as they may be. Kudos to Panera Bread for this commitment. We’re positive that the flavor of their foods will only get better through this effort and that they’ll be gaining even more fans from this bold and necessary move.

This great trend has legs! We can’t wait to see which chain will be the next to make the move towards providing consumers with the healthier foods we all deserve!

So what’s the Health Score really all about anyway?

Today received an email from a concerned visitor regarding a margarine product on our site. The visitor disagreed with the C- score for the product, saying it really should have been awarded an A. The comment was based on the idea that the Report Card for this margarine pointed out that it contains no fiber. It was pretty easy for that visitor to assume that, in fact, the reason for the C- score was the fact that the product lacks fiber. First, we want to make sure that our community understands that C- is really not a poor Health Score. It’s not the best, but it’s certainly far from being the worst.

We thought it was worth a blog post to address the visitor’s concerns, in case others have the same thoughts when viewing the Health Score and the Report Card for any product. In this particular food category, fiber doesn’t impact the Health Score at all. It’s not figured   in the calculations used to arrive at the rating. What the visitor missed was the inclusion of “Artificial Flavors” in the ingredient list. There are many consumers confused by “Artificial” and “Natural Flavors” and why these are considered controversial items.

“Artificial flavors” is a label that manufacturers use for chemical formulations that they aren’t required to disclose. This means that a product could contain unknown allergens, controversial ingredients and other problematic items, because manufacturers don’t have to tell us what chemicals make up these “artificial flavors.” To demonstrate why we take “artificial flavors” seriously, here is a list of what’s contained in a typical Artificial Strawberry Flavor:

Amyl acetate, amyl butyrate, amyl valerate, anethol, anisyl formate, benzyl acetate, benzyl isobutyrate, butyric acid, cinnamyl isobutyrate, cinnamyl valerate, cognac essential oil, diacetyl, dipropyl ketone, ethyl acetate, ethyl amyl ketone, ethyl butyrate, ethyl cinnamate, ethyl heptanoate, ethyl heptylate, ethyl lactate, ethyl methylphenylglycidate, ethyl nitrate, ethyl propionate, ethyl valerate, heliotropin, hydroxyphenyl-2-butanone (10 percent solution in alcohol), a-ionone, isobutyl anthranilate, isobutyl butyrate, lemon essential oil, maltol, 4-methylacetophenone, methyl anthranilate, methyl benzoate, methyl cinnamate, methyl heptine carbonate, methyl naphthyl ketone, methyl salicylate, mint essential oil, neroli essential oil, nerolin, neryl isobutyrate, orris butter, phenethyl alcohol, rose, rum ether, g-undecalactone, vanillin, and solvent.

That massive list is all hidden by the phrase “artificial flavors,” and consumers are left none the wiser. “Natural Flavors” are often created with the same ingredients as “artificial flavors,” but extracted or created in a way that allows manufacturers to call them “natural” when they are really anything but.

So while that margarine product lists one controversial ingredient, “Artificial Flavors”, that one phrase is actually hiding a list of others that we’ll never be aware of. When you take that ingredient into consideration and then add it to the fact that margarine is a fat, you can better understand how the C- Health Score was achieved. likes transparency. We like to know what we’re eating and we think our community should as well. The Health Score is designed to be a quick read for our community members on the overall nutritional quality of a product. It takes into consideration all applicable attributes for every product in our database. Again, C- isn’t a terrible Score. But when a product contains controversial ingredients (and “Artificial Flavors” is more than one ingredient, even though it doesn’t read that way), it loses points.

For more information on the Health Score, click here: And feel free to email us whenever you have a question regarding the information on our site! We’ll always take the time to answer your concerns.