When is a blueberry not a blueberry?

Maybe it is the relentless rain that has been blowing sideways into my wellies or this cold that wont budge but if I cant get that off my chest I might as well shift something else that has been annoying me for a week.

The object of my ire is a (relatively) recent introduction that I have bought a couple of times but it was only the other day, when I was sitting consuming it and was casually reading everything on the packaging, with nothing else to read at the time, that I began to get high blood pressure.

As I expand the remit of this blog (I think I will get a few more things off my chest as we go along) and I cover a few non-gardening topics, I will have to say where I stand on a few things. In a way this one deals with the sugar debate. The press has recently been obsessed with the fuss over sugar. Sugar is the new nicotine apparently. What you have to realise is that papers and lazy journalists come out with this guff because it is likely to be popular and sell papers or get our attention and it makes a good headline and fills a few pages. We all know that most people like to eat sugary things – they taste nice – we have sugar-receptors on our tongue. Sugar is not a poison and it is only addictive in as much as we need to eat – we are addicted to eating – if we don’t eat we die. Is that a sign that food is addictive? Fruits are full of sugar – plants do that so animals eat them (we are not the only animals that like sugar) and distribute the seeds. But sugar in fruit is usually combined with fibre, vitamins and other beneficial chemicals. Pure sugar is an ’empty’ food that supplies just energy and if you eat too much it will do you harm – in a wide variety of ways – not just because it makes you fat.

The recent fuss is about taxing sugar and condemning foods because they contain sugar. This is reminiscent of the recent fuss about fat and taxing or condemning high-fat foods. Some ‘foods’ that are high in fat are bad – especially if they are highly processed – but some are useful in the diet if eaten in moderation. Cheese is high in fat but is packed with nutrients and who would say that Brazil nuts are unhealthy? They are packed with the useful antioxidant selenium (one nut has your entire daily recommended intake) as well as many other nutrients – but they are packed with fat. They are nearly 70% fat! Only 15% of this is saturated fat so don’t be alarmed. But if you want to see how fatty they are you just have to light one!

Another use for Brazil nuts - impromptu candles

Another use for Brazil nuts – impromptu candles

But fat is not all bad. It helps us absorb some nutrients and it is (in some cases) natural. It is only when we eat too much or we eat processed fat that it is a problem. But it seems that the sugar industry had a fight with the fat industry and won us over. We were convinced that fat was bad and we didn’t bother to look at what it was replaced with in foods. So ‘low-fat’ foods now have all manner of gunk in them as well as extra sugar.

What we need to do is take control and eat less tiramisu rather than eat it every day. Don’t have a low fat one and kid ourselves it is doing us good because it is low fat. No – have a proper tiramisu every now and then – which will taste nice rather than like sickly wallpaper paste – and eat something we know is better for us the rest of the time. Come on – we all know that nothing is for free – if it seems too good to be true it probably is.

Back to sugar. I don’t need to pay tax on a Mar’s bar to know it is full of sugar. I will have one when I want one (which isn’t very often), knowing that it should not be a large part of my diet. Come on – is this tax nonsense supposed to convince me that the government cares about my health? Fess up and put a bar code on my forehead so you can take the money out of my bank account whenever I walk into a sweet shop or off licence and be honest about it – you just want more of my money. You have stopped people smoking so that income is falling so you need some other way to extract my money. But I am way off topic!

Half the sugar - nice!

Half the sugar – nice!

We need to consume less sugar. We are being told that and I won’t argue with that. It’s a fact. The problem with artificial sweeteners is that a) they are artificial and b) they still maintain our craving for sweet things rather than ‘educate’ us to eat less sweet things. So if you drink ‘diet’ soda you may not obtain your calories there but you still have a sweet tooth so drink it with a cheesecake.

Along comes Stevia- the sugar leaf. It has been used as a sweetener in Japan for years but is relatively new in the USA and EU. It is great – a natural product (in the raw state at least). You can easily grow it yourself in a greenhouse from seed – start now as I am doing. You can drop a leaf in a cup of tea instead of sugar. I don’t take sugar in tea so I won’t. It is now being added to all manner of foods.

A stevia plant growing happily outside last summer - it is quite easy to grow and simple to add to drinks and stewed fruit - not so good for cakes!

A stevia plant growing happily outside last summer – it is quite easy to grow and simple to add to drinks and stewed fruit – not so good for cakes!

Take this Tropicana 50. This is a mix of fruit juice and water with added stevia. I bought it and tried it. It tastes OK apart from the added pectin that makes it slightly ‘gloopy’ – I don’t need my juice to be gloopy – liquid is OK thanks.

Now I confess that I was taken in by the ads. Why did I buy a litre of juice that I knew was 50% water? Especially when it cost 2.80 euro. Its the classic food manufacturer’s ploy – making money from a cheap product dressed as something special – here water. I know – I am a fool. You can almost hear the discussion in the boardroom:

Jones ‘We need to increase the profit margin on the juices White. Three euro a litre is not enough. I want a Rolls next year and the wife gets through a Rolex a month what with all those diving holidays – funny how she always wants the men’s watches though.’

White ‘Why can’t we just charge more for the juice?’

Jones ‘Well we are in a recession. If we charge too much they will just go back to drinking lager.’

White ‘Can’t we make the bottles smaller and charge the same?’

Jones ‘We have already done that – don’t you notice anything White?’

White ‘ Wait Sir, I have it! We will dilute it with water. Like they used to do with milk. We will mix it with water and charge the same amount.’

Jones ‘But they won’t buy it if they know half of it is water – they are not that stupid. What are you thinking of White!’

White‘ But Sir – they will buy it if we say it only contains ‘half the calories’ of other fruit juice! We might even be able to charge more than for just the juice because it has no added chemicals but is low calorie! Think of all the people on a diet who would buy it!

Jones ‘Here White, take this bonus!’

I know that glugging fruit juice is bad for me. Fruit is good but juice can be bad because you can so easily knock back loads of sugar – natural sugar but still sugar! We think we are doing ourselves good by drinking a bottle of orange juice that proudly declares it contains the juice of 8 oranges – but who would have time to eat 8 oranges normally. Nature has its own portion control mechanisms – you would die of boredom or have no skin left on your fingers by the time you got to orange 7! I know that I should dilute my orange juice with water anyway so that I don’t ramp up my cal count – and I do – so why did I buy this stuff?

Well I suppose it is another ad rip-off – the antioxidant craze. This stuff is packed with pomegranate and blueberries! So that must be good. So I bought it. And as I say, it tasted OK. And here we come to the problem and why I started writing this.

The label says ‘Pomegranate and Blueberry Juice drink’. Because it is ‘juice drink’ I know it is not all juice. That is fair enough. But it is ‘Pomegranate and Blueberry’ juice drink. It is not ‘Juice drink with Pomegranate and Blueberry’ but ‘Pomegranate and Blueberry juice drink’. Therefore I would expect that it would contain a substantial amount of ‘Pomegranate and Blueberry’ juice in it. But look at the label and after the water (ok) and apple juice (sort of ok) we find that it contains just 2% pomegranate juice and 2% blueberry juice. So only 4% of the contents of the bottle are what I expected to be in the drink and what is featured on the label. Where is the image of the apples which make up 40% of the drink?

trop2

In the photo at the top of the page I have measured out 40ml of the drink – that is the amount of Pomegranate and Blueberry juice in the whole litre (1000ml) bottle. In fact there is so little of these coloured fruit juices in the bottle that it is coloured with elderberry juice! I know elderberry juice is natural – but not in ‘Pomegranate and Blueberry Juice drink’.

What a con!

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2 Comments on “When is a blueberry not a blueberry?”

  1. joy
    January 26, 2014 at 2:57 pm #

    well said Geoff and very interesting reading . and we all also know there is only one way to lose weight …… eat less

    • thebikinggardener
      January 26, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

      Thanks Joy – sorry for the late reply – I was eating a Mars Bar 😛

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