Ben & Jerry's finally agreed to remove the "all natural" label from their ice cream products, which contain hydrogenated oil, alkalized cocoa, corn syrup, and other ingredients that aren't "natural" — eight years after a watchdog organization first raised concerns.
Ben & Jerry's, which is a unit of consumer product conglomerate Unilever, agreed to remove the "all natural" label after the Center for Science in the Public Interest sent the company a letter last month, pointing out that at least 48 of its products were labeled "all natural" when they contain non-natural ingredients. (After the deal was struck, the CSPI was quick to concede that none of these non-natural ingredients are actually harmful, and plenty of "natural" ingredients are also bad for your health.)
But this wasn't the first time this issue came up. The CSPI also blew the whistle on Ben & Jerry for a similar misstatement, back in July 2002. Back then, the organization filed a complaint with the FDA, which apparently ignored it. Still, in response to CSPI's complaints, back in 2002, Ben & Jerry's reportedly agreed to remove hydrogenated oil from its products, and to remove the "all natural" label from its products that still contained artificial ingredients. But apparently, this didn't last, since the CSPI raised the issue again this summer.
So how bad is hydrogenated oil, in particular? Well, consider the fact that Ben & Jerry's parent company, Unilever, made this pledge in a July 2009 press release:
Unilever, one of the world's largest consumer products companies, today announced that its entire soft (tub) spreads portfolio in the United States will have no partially hydrogenated oils and therefore no trans fats per serving by the second quarter of 2010.
After an extensive three-year research and development effort, Unilever has begun removing the partially hydrogenated vegetable oil from I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!®, Brummel & Brown®, Shedd's Spread Country Crock® and Imperial® soft spread products sold in tub formats, thereby eliminating the artificial trans fats in these products. The company committed to doing so while ensuring that the saturated fat content of these spreads remains as low as possible (2 grams or less per serving), consistent with dietary guidance to limit saturated fat intake. Product taste and performance will not change.
"We have been a global leader in the production and innovation of spreads for over 50 years," said John LeBoutillier, senior vice president and general manager, U.S. Foods, Unilever. "As the category leader with a portfolio of leading brands enjoyed by families across the country, we're proud to make a commitment that will have a positive impact on the health and wellness of millions of our loyal consumers."
"The ultimate goal is to further reduce trans fats in the American diet, while maintaining lower levels of saturated fat than butter and many other soft spreads on the market," LeBoutillier added. "This is an important step for Unilever, a company driven by our Vitality mission to meet everyday needs for nutrition, hygiene and personal care with brands that help people look good, feel good and get more out of life."