After a lot of thought and consideration -- I have decided to retire One Foot in Reality and leave it as an Archive. I will still monitor it to keep the trolls at bay, but will not be posting here any longer.

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Thank you for all they years of following One Foot In Reality.


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Gotta Check the Ingredient Lists Closer

You know something I get tired of the games that brands play.

No not just the brands in the running industry, but brands in general.

The tactics they use to make their products appear different, better, more appealing or healthier than what they really are, just gets old after a while.

Yesterday, after I got done with my run in Augusta and stopped at the grocery store to pickup some stuff and noticed on an end cap (probably my first mistake), a product that looked like it might be something that I might like.

So I stopped, picked the box up and looked at the ingredients list.

Yeah, that is something that I have started to do over the years, take a quick look at the ingredients to get a better idea of what I am eating and not just rely on the bright colors and flashy packaging that their marketing guru's put together to catch our eyes.

It doesn't mean that I don't or won't buy something because of an ingredient that is in their list, but it means that I have become more conscious of what is in that box or wrapper before I buy it.

Yesterday for the first time I noticed something different in the ingredient list. I had heard about brands listing ingredients multiple times before, but never believed that it was happening, until I saw it for myself.

The product I was thinking about buying had corn syrup listed 3 times in the ingredient list.

Corn syrup was the 2nd, 6th and 8th ingredients listed. I know because I stopped and counted twice and there were a couple of other names for other sweetners in there as well.

"Come on man"


When I saw that ingredient list, to be honest I was stunned, I wasn't anticipating actually seeing that kind of blatant, in your face, f$#@ your ingredient list hubris from a brand.

I also wasn't expecting my reaction to actually noticing and seeing what the brands were doing.

Initially, I got a sense of disappointment that businesses would stoop this low and simply shook my head in disbelief, then I looked at the list again and felt a sense of powerlessness and then when I looked one more time I got this feeling of indignant disbelief at what I was seeing.

I picked up a different flavor of the same product and saw the same thing. At that point, I put both boxes back on the shelf and walked away muttering to myself about what I had just seen. Since I am writing about it today, you can tell my mutterings were rather uncomplimentary towards that brand.

Then I stopped and looked at some other brand's box ingredient lists and saw the same damn thing repeated - I wasn't impressed.

It is a problem

Yeah, I am not naive, but...

If a brand feels that it can't list corn syrup (or whatever) as the first ingredient and believe that they have to play games, in order to make it appear that their product is a healthier option than it is - there is a big problem with how the product is made and the mixture of ingredients that are being used.

The product I was looking went from something that might be a semi-healthy option, to a glorified candy bar. Not a bad thing necessarily, but not what I was looking for.

What bothers me

When a brand decides that listing the same ingredient several times to avoid placing that ingredient where it belongs on the ingredient list, because some smart-ass lawyer and/or marketer has determined that they are still playing by or at least following the letter of the law.

Even if it evades the original intent of the ingredient list.

I find this ploy of listing the same ingredient multiple times, even more insulting and exasperating than the numerous names for different or the same sugars. Which is bad enough. If a sugar is listed as their first ingredient in a product, yeah it looks bad.

Maybe it is time to re-think a product's ingredient mix if that is the case.

However, as long as not too many people complain, too much, about what they are doing and only a small fringe of consumers balk at their playing games with the ingredient list, why should the brands change how they have chosen to do business or present their products to the consumers.

What can I do

There is not much I can really do about a brand's hubris or what they do, with their ingredient lists - that is way beyond my pay grade.

However, from now on when I see that a brand is listing the same ingredient multiple times to avoid placing that ingredient where it is supposed to be in the ingredient list...

  • I will do what I did yesterday, put the product back on the shelf and walk away.

In other words I will vote with my wallet.

Has anyone else noticed this tactic?

Am I over-reacting or is it something to think more about and start looking at the ingredient lists even more closely?

This post originally appeared on One Foot In Reality if you see it elsewhere, it has been used without permission, please go to my site to see the original post.


  1. I look at labels also and often find sugar listed under different names. And I have put packages back on the shelf and moved on. I've pretty much determined there is no such thing as a healthy cookie.
    If I'm running a race than a Cliff bar is okay. If I'm watching TV, that bar will just end up as anther fat ring around the belly.

    1. Andy - I hear ya, I wonder how many of those quote-unquote "power" bars, back when we were kids would have been considered little more than candy bars and our parents not letting us eat them after supper in the evening. We had the rule no candy bars after supper, but the weird thing was we could have cake, cookies or ice cream???? Never did really understand that part, guess that is why I always want something in the evenings :-)

  2. I looked this up and found "The Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) defines threshold amounts for agents (21 CFR ...). The CFR does not address a combined value"

    So my assumption is (without actual knowledge) that the 'corn syrup' you are seeing multiple times is not 'truly identical', as there are no provisions for multiple listing.

    However, high-fructose corn syrup has a slightly different structure than modified corn syrup or just plain corn syrup, so while the aggregate sweetener effect is the same, they are actually technically required to list them separately ... which has a side-benefit of allowing them to NOT have sweetener as the primary ingredient.

    I think being informed is always important, and that looking at the labels is equally important. I know that if I don't get enough protein I will feel it on my runs the next day, so I am careful with what I eat.

    However, the worst thing I ever did was looking up the nutritional information for an item at a restaurant ... while at that restaurant with my family. Ugh ... ruined dinner.

    1. Mike - thank you for clarifying that for me. The cynic in me makes me think the worst at times and when the brands make no distinction between corn syrup, corn syrup and corn syrup, it does make it seem odd and then they add in fructose (another name for corn syrup according to some). Oh well, I would prefer to be informed and know the requirements. I am positive that they are within the letter of the law, I don't think a major brand is going to cross those lines - at least purposely. Thank you for looking it up in the CFR, I didn't even think to look there and spouted off, without having all the facts and I appreciate have the correct info.

      Thanks Mike - that is why I don't look at the nutritional values at the restaurants, I am there to enjoy the experience and socialize vs eating healthier. I can get back to eating good when I get back home ;-). Protein isn't my problem, usually I get more than enough, my problem is when I eat too much sugar and start bouncing and then crashing, so I have to be a little more careful with it.

  3. I actually agree with your cynicism. While there might be technical reasons to use the various slightly-different chemicals, I also believe that there are internal-triggers at companies regarding % of certain ingredients that will cause them to figure out different ways of putting stuff together.

    1. I like that internal triggers, I don't always think their internal triggers have the end consumer's health or welfare in mind - just a bit of cynicism.


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