Friday, August 12, 2005

Little White Lies

The Lexington Herald Leader this week asked, Looks like white bread. Tastes like it, too. But is it? in the article, White or wheat? Experts disagree

The bread in question - Wonder White Bread Fans, a new entry into the market from Interstate Bakeries (makers of Wonder Bread) who state on their website that the bread is the first real 100% whole grain bread created specifically for people who love the mild taste and soft feel of white bread and want the benefits of whole grain nutrition.

The Lexington Herald provided more details.

It took scientists eight long years and millions of dollars to sneak whole grains into that spongy, yeasty icon of U.S. health-unconscious consumerism. Now that they've done it, food manufacturers have begun releasing a bevy of products they hope will get people to eat whole grains.

The thinking was to get more health into the bread and other products people like. In the process, they've created some confusion, even as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is still trying to define whole-grain products.

While it sounds like an interesting idea, I wonder, why not just make real bread? Do we really want or need food manufacturers "sneaking" ingredients into our food they think are good for us? And, honestly, can we really call this new product "100% whole grain bread"?

The process to make it requires a number of dough conditioners and processes to keep it "soft" to retain a similar "mouth-feel" of regular Wonder Bread. Good, old-fashioned, 100% whole grain bread has a very short list of ingredients and the process is simple - mix, rise, bake.

There is also a lot of marketing hype around this product and products like it right now, including articles touting the benefits of this new bread to parents.

As the Boston Globe reported, It's the business of balancing kids' finicky tastes with the government's nutritional guidelines that's attracting people like Tammy Yarmon, director of nutrition services for Omaha Public Schools. Products that pack extra fiber or other nutrients make the balancing act easier as she tries to average out nutritional requirements -- guidelines recommend at least three daily servings of whole grain -- over a week.

''The hardest thing is to get a kid to eat something that's brown or anything that looks like it has seeds in it," Yarmon said.

Again, what's wrong with simply making a child's lunch with real 100% whole grain bread? Why do adults feel the need to "sneak in" whole grains? How are children going to learn the importance of making good, sound, nutritional choices when they're fooled into thinking they're eating white bread and that it's good for them?

Apparently, not everyone is buying into the marketing hype of the new bread or products like it that are using the new albino wheat.

Touting these products as whole grain is a marketing gimmick that could confuse well-meaning parents, said Dr. Fred Pescatore, a Manhattan internist who specializes in nutrition, and is the author of the best seller, The Hampton's Diet.

Dr. Pescatore is quoted in the Herald Ledger article, "What they're doing is playing to the marketplace perception that whole grain is good for us -- which it certainly is -- but they're putting a little bit in there so they can say that it's there, they're not really doing a great service."

I agree!

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