Are You Eating Fake Blueberries?

Blueberries have so much going for them.  They’re a gorgeous color and they’re one of the few fruits native to North America.

All blueberries, especially the tiny wild ones, are loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals that may play a role in reducing risk for some diseases.

Fantastic nutrition, too.  One cup has 84.4 calories, no fat, 21 grams of carbs (4 g fiber, 15g sugars) and 1 g of protein and 24% of the recommended daily value of Vitamin C.

They’re a good tasting, good looking super food. That’s why manufacturers add them to lots of cereal and baked goods (or at least imply that they do).

So, what’s the problem? Here it is: a bunch of food products that have labels or lovely pictures that suggest that they contain real blueberries really contain types of fake blueberries (not plastic, but not whole fruit either).

Blueberry Crunchlets

In an investigation, the nonprofit Consumer Wellness Center found fake “blueberries” that were actually a mix of sugar, corn syrup, starch, hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors and food dyes blue No. 2 and red No. 40 that were made to look like blueberries. Manufacturers like Kellogg’s, Betty Crocker, and General Mills, use them in bagels, cereals, bread, and muffins. Some products mix real blueberries with fakes.

For instance, Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats Blueberry Muffin variety has blueberry flavored “crunchlets,” not blueberries and General Mills’ Total Blueberry Pomegranate cereal contains no blueberries and no pomegranates.

What Are Crunchlets?

Here’s the ingredient list and description, from their website, for Kellogg’s® Frosted Mini-Wheats® Blueberry Muffin:

It is described as “Naturally and artificially flavored lightly sweetened whole grain wheat cereal, blueberry muffin.”

Ingredients:  Whole Grain Wheat, Sugar, Blueberry Flavored Crunchlets (sugar, corn cereal, soybean oil, modified cornstarch, water, natural and artificial flavor, glycerin, corn syrup, red #40 lake, blue #2 lake), Natural and Artificial Blueberry Flavor, Sorbitol, Gelatin, Reduced Iron, Niacinamide, Blue #2 lake, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Red #40, Folic Acid, Zinc Oxide, Vitamin B12.  To maintain quality, BHT has been added to packaging.

What’s A Consumer To Do?

Your best option is to buy real blueberries and put them on your cereal.

But, what if you crave blueberries in January in the Northeast with multiple feet of snow on the ground and you don’t want to pay a fortune for berries shipped from thousands of miles away?

If you’re thinking of buying cereal or baked goods that claim to have blueberries in them, read the ingredients list on the box to see if the product contains any real fruit.

Items with fake blueberries will have red No. 40, blue No. 2 or other artificial colors listed on the label.  Read carefully, artificial colors and dyes may also be used for components other than blueberries, too.

There are some products with honest to goodness blueberries in them.   Just look carefully.

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