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Ocean Spray rejects cranberry mislabeling claim

By Caroline Scott-Thomas , 23-Nov-2009

Ocean Spray has denied claims by the National Consumers League (NCL) that the company’s Choice sweetened dried cranberry product is more sugar than cranberry and therefore falsely labeled.

The NCL made the allegation after what it described as a confidential tip led the organization to commission independent testing of Ocean Spray’s Choice cranberries, which are sold to food manufacturers for use as an ingredient in cereal bars, baked goods, trail mixes and other snacks. It said it was concerned that Ocean Spray was capitalizing on the healthy image of cranberries after claiming that tests from Krueger Laboratories found the ingredient was “really little more than cranberry skin infused with sugar syrup.”

Ocean Spray’s Ingredient Technology Group’s vice president of research and development Geoff Woolford responded in a statement: “The recent claim about our 'Choice' sweetened dried cranberries ingredient product being mislabeled is inaccurate.

“We were disappointed the National Consumers League did not contact us to inquire about this product prior to issuing a press release.”

Much of the NCL’s concern centers on whether there is enough cranberry in the product to confer the fruit’s perceived health benefits linked to its high levels of antioxidants and proanthocyanidins (PACs). If not, the organization claims that the company is misleading consumers.

However, Woolford said: “Our Choice product is made from Grade A superior frozen whole cranberries which are then sliced and sent through our patented process including infusion of sugar, citric acid and elderberry juice to infuse flavor and color specifically developed to meet our industrial customers' needs for their variety of recipes. Being made from whole cranberries, Choice retains many of the same healthful compounds.”

Ocean Spray introduced Choice cranberries in March as a lower cost alternative to its Classic Sweetened Dried Cranberries. Its Choice brand contains elderberry juice concentrate and citric acid, in addition to cranberries, sugar and oil.

A company spokesperson told this website in March: “The different formulation is what allowed the price to be a little bit lower and we specifically formulated a product that would bring a lower cost option but still deliver on all the same benefits.”

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