The Blueberries In Your Food Could Be Fake

Here’s something to choke on. The “blueberries” inside that muffin or cereal you love so much might not actually have ever been blueberries. Instead, they are a composite of sugars and starches that have been dyed blue. Check the label. If it says “blueberry flavored chrunchlets,” for instance, those are actually sugars, soybean oil, red #40 and blue #2. Reached for comment, Kellogg’s told NPR that the stuff is “labeled in compliance with applicable laws and regulations.” Well that takes care of that. If it’s not illegal and is profitable, do it.

Fake Blueberries Often Masquerade As Real Fruit [NPR]

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  1. Darrone says:

    At first I was shocked, and then i kinda realized, of course that crappy 11 cent hostess cake doesnt have real blueberries, why am I shocked?

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      It just blows my mind to think that the sum total of the chemical industry infrastructure is so mighty that synthetic “blueberry” oil balls made by man are actually cheaper than real blueberries that grow out of the bush.

      • maubs says:

        You actually have corn subsidies to thank for that. Enjoy your dextrose, maltodextrin and corn-starch, sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.

        • Chaosium says:

          Even without subsidies it’d be cheaper. Chemicals are MUCH easier to synthesize than to wait through an entire growth cycle.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Agreed. If I want authentic, I’ll make them on my own, with real blueberries. I assume everything else is processed and fake in one way or another, whether it’s the blueberries or the fact that it probably contains a dozen preservatives and a weird shinyness to the top.

      • jessjj347 says:

        Agreed. Didn’t realize anyone thought there was real fruit in processed U.S. foods. I pretty much doubt even foods that are labeled as whole grain and the like.

    • MarvinMar says:

      11 cent Hostess cake? Never.
      25 cent Little Debbie maybe, but it’s more like $1.89 Hostess cake.

    • DJSeanMac says:

      August 2005 settlement over “Blueberry Bits” in Aunt Jemima waffles: http://www.cspinet.org/new/200508111.html

      • OnePumpChump says:

        I bought some of those the other day, not knowing.

        I just assumed that the pitiful amount of blue…not berries was the explaination for the price.

        I mean shit…they aren’t even real blueberries, and they’re stingy as hell with them.

  2. PadThai says:

    Don’t we eat a lot of sugars, soybean oil, red #40 and blue #2 anyway…

  3. SkokieGuy says:

    The FDA should also investigating potentially deceptive advertising claims.

    Many consumers have been misled when the open up the normal size box and find that the muffin inside is not the size of a end table, yet the label clearly shows that the model can not get her two arms around the circumference of the muffing.

    When will truth-in-labeling laws be enforced?

    • deejmer says:

      Out of context, this sounds REALLY wrong:

      “…her two arms around the circumference of the muffing”

      ;-)

      • SkokieGuy says:

        How dare you find humor in my misspellings! Actually if you look at the expression on her face, it does seem like she does have a rather inappropriate love of giant muffins.

        You know the foes of same-sex marriage would make the (stupid) slippery-slope argument. If we allow gay marriage, what’s next, a man and a goat? Well I guess they never did considered bakery products.

    • Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ã‚œ-゜ノ) says:

      She is actually a pixie. “But where are the wings?” you ask? She’s a pixie fallen from grace after committing various heinous crimes.

    • Daggertrout says:

      It’s all right. It says “Serving Suggestion” in 0.5pt font on the box.

    • SecretAgentWoman says:

      +1, Would read again.

  4. RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

    I noticed that a long time ago, when the “blueberries” tasted like lumps of blue sugar. I thought this was obvious to everybody. Are there people that the fakeberries really fool?

  5. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    Now’s a good time to inform you about the existence of http://www.muffinfilms.com

  6. milk says:

    Coincidentally I ran into this a couple weeks ago when I was looking through muffin mix and noticed one that boasted “REAL blueberries!” I got to wondering what exactly was in the other ones and looked through ingredients lists. For some reason I’d never really thought about how little crunchy nuggets don’t resemble blueberries at all.

  7. golddog says:

    The blueberries in Kashi’s Blueberry Clusters cereal are the real deal, and damn tasty. I wish they’d just make a box of those and 86 the flakes altogether.

    • lucky13 says:

      Or you could just get real blueberries from the produce section and stop paying Kashi to put them in a box for you.

      • golddog says:

        Yeah those are OK too but it’s a whole crunchy-frosty texture thing. Making my own dehydrated crunchy-frosty blueberries at home just doesn’t seem like it’d be worth all the hassle.

        • s0s has a chewy nougat center says:

          I sorta do this at home. I buy the dried fruit because I do not have room for a damn dehydrator and would have to buy the fresh berries, anyway. But I do take dried berries and toss them in a watered down royal icing that gets into the nooks and crannies, and then spread them out to dry.

          The result is a frosty, crunchy, sweet, vaguely vanilla-y dried fruit product. They are to my liking, at least, though you’d probably want to use the meringue powder recipe rather than egg whites if you want them to be more shelf stable. Me, they’re never around long enough for it to be an issue (and that’s what my immune system is FOR, anyway).

      • drizzt380 says:

        Or you could just grow your own blueberries and stop paying the produce section to grow and ship them for you.

        Lazy bastard.

    • Slave For Turtles says:

      Yeah, Kashi makes good stuff.

  8. Slader says:

    I do not understand why they are allowed to call items such as muffins, blueberry muffins when they do not have blueberries in them. It would make more sense if they had to say something like blueberry flavored, artificial blueberry chip or “blueberry” muffins.

    • Mom says:

      There was a law passed in 1938 that said, in effect, that food that wasn’t actually what it purported to be had to be labeled “imitation.” The FDA did away with that rule in 1973, and we’ve been increasingly bombarded with foods that aren’t really what the seem ever since.

      Since the food industry likes it that way, good luck with getting that changed.

      • One-Eyed Jack says:

        I saw some cheapo Shredded Imitation Cheese in the grocery tonight. There’s an ingredient list you’d rather not read …

  9. mike says:

    Watch out for “Real Blueberry flavor!” In other words, “Not real blueberry!”

    “Flavor” is a very popular marketing words. Flavor is cheaper than actual stuff. Look at “Smoked sausage” with “smoked flavoring”.

  10. cybrczch says:

    So, when crunchlets ripen, do they become crunchberries?

  11. GMurnane says:

    If people buy cheap sugary junk instead of making their own or actually spending a second to read the labels its their own fault.

    • RadarOReally has got the Post-Vacation Blues says:

      If you do not Make Your Own At Home, FOR SHAME!

      • GMurnane says:

        Some people will never get to know how delicious, nutritious and easy home cooking is :(

        • JulesNoctambule says:

          Especially those people who work multiple jobs to make ends meet, lack personal transportation and have a convenience store as their nearest ‘grocery’.
          :(

          • George4478 says:

            What! You mean 100% of the people in this country can’t do [insert specific act here]? That some people have [insert specific circumstances here that prevent them from participating]?

            Why, that’s major news! Who knew that 300 million Americans didn’t all have the same lifestyle and circumstances?

            Thanks for pointing it out.

            • ChuckECheese says:

              The strangest thing of all is that so many people do trot out their own circumstances, or those of one other person – such as their grandmother – and then announce that all people who don’t live and do as they did are morally inferior. For instance, beeker doesn’t get it that not everybody lives within walking distance of a grocery store. He doesn’t comprehend how the world has changed in two or so generations. There’s no empathy and no constructive ideas for improvement, just the back of his hand.

              • XianZomby says:

                Even in the poorest areas of the United States, there are mothers who feed their kids healthy food and who have mastery of their homes and control over their own lives. If you and yours aren’t eating healthy, it’s your own fault, not society’s fault. That’s a matter of responsibility, not morality. So quit blaming the society if you don’t know how to take care of yourself and your family. And quit blaming the success and quality of life of the neighbor across the street for the failure of the neighbor next to you. The poorest neighbor would rather be held accountable for his own failure and his own success than to have you promote him as a sad sack victim of the society the successful created, and that we should all feel sorry for and guilty about.

                • ChuckECheese says:

                  You accuse me of saying things I have not said. I don’t despise anybody’s success. I am saying that the availability of fresh foods is not what it used to be. Nor is people’s access to shopping what it used to be in many areas of the country. These are issues that need attention, rather than saying ‘well, if my grandma could do it, then so can everybody else, and if they can’t or don’t, then they’re morally inferior.’ Americans love these personal attacks on people when they’re down and out. It’s always the individual’s fault when things go bad. It’s fat people’s fault that health insurance costs so much; you’re morally deficient if you can’t find and procure a healthy diet that you can afford. It’s unreasonable, illogical, cruel, inhumane and just plain odd.

          • Beeker26 says:

            Yet my grandmother who raised 6 kids on her own, who never owned a car, and worked 12-hour days as a cleaning woman somehow managed to make 3 homemade meals a day for her kids. Go figure.

            If it were important to you you’d find a way. It’s that simple.

            • Outrun1986 says:

              What likely happened back then is that the food came to them, they used to have guys coming around to sell you chickens, ice, veggies etc. This is what my grandma told me, she remembers buying the thanksgiving turkey from a guy that used to go around selling turkeys. Veggies also could have come from the garden that was most likely in the backyard. Neighbors shared food from their gardens. There was also likely a local market within walking distance if you didn’t have the guys coming around to sell their stuff.

              • Beeker26 says:

                The only thing that came to her was milk from the milkman. And there were no supermarkets back then, all you had was the corner market that she had to walk to.

            • ChuckECheese says:

              Oh come on. You granma didn’t do it on her own. She put her children to work. They were scrubbing, sewing, weeding and cooking from the first moment they could.

              • Beeker26 says:

                And that’s somehow a bad thing? Shouldn’t kids have chores to do? Or do you believe it’s better to let them play video games all day and not even pick up after themselves while Mommy is off working 2 jobs in order to pay the bills?

                Hell, I grew up in a single parent household (2 kids), and we were taught from an early age that we had chores to do cause there was no way Mommy could do it all on her own.

                • ChuckECheese says:

                  No, I agree with Jules N. here. The point is that your granma and her brood lived in times far different from our own. I do believe that some modern distortions of urban geography and the political and home economies, labor and wage trends, nuclear family isolationism, not to mention crime and safety concerns, mean that a modern poor urban woman’s choices may be more hobson-esque than your grandmothers’.

                  Nobody does it on their own in this society, are we clear on that? Everybody relies on complex and differing amalgams of social networks, material resources, personal characteristics, histories, and circumstances. Your grandma didn’t do it on her own – she didn’t create this set of circumstances of her own power – and nobody is doing it on their own today. There were many people who failed in your grandmother’s time, and their children went off into victorian white house-slavery, sharecropping, or became orphan train children, or street kids, giving up their lives to shoeshines, syphilis and polio.

                  Your grandmother possessed a fortunate set of circumstances and relationships. It is the wish of social progressives that these same good things can be provided to an expanding number of people, to the benefit of everybody. It is the interest of teabaggers that they beat their chests over how good their granmas were, so we can all clearly see how they and only they deserve to ride the Donkeys Bound for Heaven.

                  • Beeker26 says:

                    Sounds like a giant massive cop out to me. A rationalization why it’s ok to feed your kids crap. Sorry, I’m not buying it. Like I said earlier, if it’s important to you you find a way to do it. If not, you don’t. My grandmother and my mother put a priority on making sure the kids ate well (maybe it’s an Italian thing — I dunno). Saying it can’t be done is hogwash. Just because you can microwave some pizza rolls and call it dinner doesn’t mean you should.

                    • kmw2 says:

                      Forget about your grandma and your mom for a moment. They lived in a very different world than we do today. What do you do, personally? Do you cook three meals a day at home, from scratch? If not, why not? If so, what enables you to do so? Do you see why other people may not have the privilege of doing so?

                    • Beeker26 says:

                      Oh just forget it. It’s like talking to a brick wall.

                    • Youngfrankenstein says:

                      Great points. As individual families, we all have our own “right” way of doing things. My kids school lunches are crappy, they are allowed to buy 2 times a week. Does that make me a bad mother? I don’t care. It’s what we can live with. I am a SAHM so I cook dinner 95% of the time from scratch so the occasional pizza night out is no big deal at all. I am not in the shoes of a single, working mom or dad so I can’t decide what’s best for them. I think we’d all agree that fast food 3 times a day is in no one’s best interest, but I don’t think anyone here is saying that.

                • ChuckECheese says:

                  No, I agree with Jules N. here. The point is that your granma and her brood lived in times far different from our own. I do believe that some modern distortions of urban geography and the political and home economies and labor and wage trends, nuclear family isolationism, not to mention crime and safety concerns, mean that a modern poor urban woman’s choices may be more hobson-esque than your grandmothers’.

                  Nobody does it on their own in this society, are we clear on that? Everybody relies on complex and differing amalgams of social networks, material resources, personal characteristics, histories, and circumstances. Your grandma didn’t do it on her own – she didn’t create this set of circumstances of her own power – and nobody is doing it on their own today. There were many people who failed in your grandmother’s time, and their children went off into victorian white house-slavery, sharecropping, or became orphan train children, or street kids, giving up their lives to shoeshines, syphilis and polio.

                  Your grandmother possessed a fortunate set of circumstances and relationships. It is the wish of social progressives that these same good things can be provided to an expanding number of people, to the benefit of everybody. It is the interest of teabaggers that they beat their chests over how good their granmas were, so we can all clearly see how they and only they deserve to ride the Donkeys Bound for Heaven.

        • Clobberella says:

          And yet home cooking is not necessarily any of those things. If you are a terrible cook, it will not be delicious. If you cook something unhealthy, it will not be nutritious. If you are one of the millions of amateur cooks who thought they could cook their way through “The Art of French Cooking” because some chick on the internet did it, it will probably not be easy. And to add another, it will probably be pretty time consuming, whatever you’re making, unless you have professional-level knife skills. All of which is certainly not to say that home cooking is not a worthwhile venture, just that home cooking isn’t better, by default, for everyone. Especially the terrible cooks.

          • GMurnane says:

            You are right, it can be challenging because of time constraints or personal talent to homecook a meal. However, it is *not* hard to read labels on food. Sure you might not know what hydrogenated magnesium fructose is buuttt you should be able to read “blueberries” as well as fat, sodium etc. Plus, there are plenty of healthful/natural frozen or prepared goods you can buy if time is a major issue.

  12. Sunflower1970 says:

    Huh. No wonder I liked ‘blueberry’ muffins from a mix. But can’t stand blueberries when eaten plain.

  13. Michaela says:

    Since my boyfriend and I are both athletic health nuts, I have known this for awhile. Besides his “fruity” granola bars, or my flavored rice cakes, we try to keep off the inner aisles of the grocery store.

    Part of me wants to be mad at the companies for somewhat deceiving customers, but at the same time I am mad at customers for not being aware of what they eat (the nutrition facts and ingredients are RIGHT ON THE PACKAGING!!!). It isn’t that I think these foods shouldn’t be offered, or that people are bad for eating them. I am just upset people are not making fully informed eating choices.

  14. SabreDC says:

    To me, this is a good thing. I absolutely loathe real blueberries. With a passion.

    I’d eat a blueberry-flavored crunchlet though.

  15. framitz says:

    I’m highly allergic to real blueberries. I wonder if the fake ones would have the same effect…
    Naw, I ain’t even going there.

    • MrEvil says:

      I doubt you’re allergic to fake blueberries. In order for your allergies to be triggered the product you’re consuming would have had to come into contact with or contain derivatives of the allergen. You can be allergic to shellfish and eat imitation crab meat (it’s just Processed Pollack fish.)

  16. caradrake says:

    I’m not terribly surprised. I’ve never actually seen any blueberries, in the flesh, that are as small as what comes in prepackaged foods. Or do they actually shrink to 1/4th of the usual size?

    • Doncosmic says:

      Then you’ve only seen farm raised blueberries. Normal blue berries in the wild do tend to be really small.

      • HogwartsProfessor says:

        The ones in the Betty Crocker mix that come in a can are said to be real blueberries, and they are very small. I THINK they are real….

        The ones in this nasty pancake mix I got for Christmas, along with a glass penguin full of maple syrup (someone needs to take my mother’s gift-buying license away) had to have been the crunchlets. I pitched it after one batch. Kept the penguin, though.

      • Beeker26 says:

        Many times they’ll dry up blueberry “leftovers” and then chop them up into little pieces. While they technically are “real blueberries” you’re not really getting much berry.

    • tsukiotoshi says:

      I beg of you: Take a vacation to Maine in the summer. There you may eat a real wild blueberry and ye shall know glory.

      Also, have a lobster while you are at it! I don’t like them much but people who seem to know whats what tell me we’ve got the best.

  17. KillerBee says:

    This isn’t surprising. The “strawberries” in my strawberries & cream oatmeal are actual apple bits with red food coloring. Still tastes good.

    • Beeker26 says:

      Reminds me of the last time I bought pistachio ice cream only to find out the “pistachios” were just green-colored bits of almonds.

  18. XianZomby says:

    I think it would illegal to print on the label “contains blueberries” if the product didn’t contain blueberries. But nobody’s being accused of that. Instead, they’re being accused of not making it incredibly easy for consumers to know for sure exactly what is inside the box by looking only at the picture on the front.

    Because the ingredients labels are usually pretty clear.

  19. Portlandia says:

    This has been true a lot, and often things that say raspberry or strawberry are sometimes apple that has been died and flavored to resemble berries.

  20. aloria says:

    I first noticed this 15 years ago when checking out the ingredients on a box of cheap blueberry muffin mix. Moral of the story: always read the ingredients.

  21. kataisa says:

    You mean Boo Berry cereal wasn’t really made out of blueberries?

    /ruined childhood/

  22. scratchie says:

    Wow, you mean you have to read the ingredient list to find out what’s really in processed food? Thank you, Consumerist, for this scoop!

  23. Benny Gesserit says:

    They might also be a completely different fruit dusguised as a blueberry. A few years ago, you could buy instant pancake mix with either cranberries or blueberries already mixed in. When they first hit the market, I wondered how the berries would survive the mix.

    One day I was passed them while shopping in that aisle and noticed the word “flavour” in small print after blueberry on the bag. (This is in Canada so we spelled “flavour” correctly.)

    I checked the ingredient list and surprise: cranberries, natural blueberry flavour and a few colours down toward the end of the list. Cranberries, likely bleached white and coloured blue with some blueberry flavour stuffed back in.

  24. BrienBear Thinks Stupidity Defies Logic says:

    Luckily, the schnozberries really taste like schnozberries.

  25. baquwards says:

    I see this all the time working in a grocery store. In our bakery we have “blueberry” bagels, not a real blueberry to be found, you can actually see where the color has run, you will see streaks of color that aren’t really the color of a blueberry, but rather the colors mixed together to make this impostor.

    I have also seen them called blueberry gromlettes.

  26. MB17 says:

    Man, with a name like Otis Spunkmeyer, I’m just relieved it’s the blueberries that aren’t an actual ingredient.

  27. Serenefengshui says:

    Well, duh! This has been true for decades! If it’s too cheap to believe, it ain’t real.

  28. moonunitrappa says:

    This is not news. People do not read. It’s plain as the language on the product. I for one LOVE fake blueberries. Much more than the real thing.

  29. Rhinoguy says:

    Those are not blueberries, they are Spunkmeyers!

  30. YouDidWhatNow? says:

    …I remember this from being like 5 years old when mom was making “blueberry” muffins from a box. And I haven’t been 5 for…a really long time.

    …so how is this news?

  31. DowneMixedBoi says:

    What’s a MUFFIN TOP?

    My supervisor keeps saying it to me.

  32. Giant Speck says:

    I figured this out when I was four years old and I noticed that the “blueberries” in Bisquik’s Shake-n-Pour Pancake Mix were actually made from colored and flavored bits of apple.

  33. artgoddess80 says:

    Just made some real pumpkin blueberry muffins myself. Much healthier and more fun.

  34. check this out says:

    What does label say for real blueberries anyway? I’m serious. Does it say blueberries or fruit or fruit sugar?

  35. lincolnparadox says:

    I’m going to start paying for food in currency-flavoured chrunchlets.

  36. Jerem43 says:

    Burger King Blueberry biscuits – same thing, no blueberries.

  37. RogueWarrior65 says:

    “Real chocolatey goodness…NO F*CKING CHOCOLATE!” – George Carlin

  38. kaltkalt says:

    Oh come on, I thought everyone knew fake blueberries were fake blueberries – how can you even think they’re real? Maybe if you’ve never had a real blueberry… but if you have eaten a real blueberry then you have no right to feel cheated when you learn that you’ve been eating faux blueberries.

  39. tator says:

    In the 1960’s I learned that Tastycake blueberry pies included apples (along with blueberries). Diced apples in the syrup formed from the blueberries come across like the blueberries themselves. Extending expensive blueberries has been around for a long time.

  40. weezedog says:

    The label for Oatis Spunkmeyer Wild Blueberry Muffins says they have real blueberries. You might want to change your picture, it could be misleading, judging from some of the comments who think those muffins do not have real blueberries.

    http://www.spunkmeyer.com/Our-Products/Foodservice-Products/Muffins/Otis-Spunkmeyer-/Wild-Blueberry-Muffins—05100/

  41. Pat says:

    “If it’s not illegal and is profitable, do it.” Is that why Consumer Reports posted the so-called FDA hit list on natural substances and what they “might” do? Because it’s not illegal and is very profitable to assist the Pharmaceutical industry? And since when is the word “might” considered anywhere in the scientific lexicon as valid? Cut the crap. If you’re going to point out the splinter in someone else’s eye, take the log out of your own.

  42. Das G says:

    I never buy anything by kellogg’s anymore. The closest I get is Kashi, who kellogg’s bought into a few years back. I still regularly check Kashi’s ingredients waiting for the day that kellogg’s ruins a great product line.

  43. JadePharaoh says:

    I’ve seen this awhile ago when looking a Jiffy’s “blueberry” muffin mix. Looking closer at the package says it’s made with “imitation blueberries”. Which shouldn’t be too surprising seeing how cheap Jiffy’s muffin mixes are.