Settlement: Sara Lee Agrees To Change Misleading "Whole Grain" Packaging

Back in December the Center for Science in the Public Interest became annoyed with Sara Lee for allegedly misleading consumers about the amount of “whole grain” in their breads. The organization announced its intention to sue Sara Lee over its “Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White Bread,” which claims to combine “all the taste and texture of white bread with the goodness of whole grain,” when actually “there is more water in this product than whole grain,” according to the CSPI.

Now Sara Lee has settled with the CSPI and will amend their marketing materials. The package will now disclose that the bread is only 30% whole grain, and will no longer claim that the amount of fiber in the product “equals [the same amount of fiber of] 100% whole wheat.”

“Consumers who want the health benefits of whole grains should look for bread that is labeled ‘100 percent whole wheat,’ or failing that, a bread where whole wheat flour, not just ‘wheat flour,’ is the first ingredient,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson.

Sara Lee to Make Clear its “Made with Whole Grain White Bread” is 30 Percent Whole Grain

PREVIOUSLY: Sara Lee “Soft & Smooth Made with Whole Grain White Bread” Has More Water Than Whole Grain


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  1. ChuckECheese says:

    Hopefully next the CSPI will go after the cereal manufacturers, who are playing the same game, claiming their products are made with whole grain, but actually have just a few grams of whole grain per serving.

  2. Dervish says:

    @ChuckECheese: In my experience with whole wheat, the necessary factor for claiming “made with whole wheat” is that WW is the first ingredient in the listing. I think the issue here is that, for SL’s whole grain white, WW flour is the THIRD ingredient listed – not only after water, but also after non-WW flour (which is a BIG no-no).

    Cereal manufacturers that claim whole grains list WW first in the statement. The amount of whole grains per serving is irrelevant, unless you’re trying to claim “good source” (8 grams WW/serving) or “excellent source” (16 g WW/serving). Incidentally, the cereal I ate this morning was an excellent source – meaning at least 16 grams WW per 50 gram serving.

  3. HogwartsAlum says:

    You know that commercial “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee?”

    I don’t like Sara Lee. Good job, CSPI.

  4. oldheathen says:

    Crud – they got me. I just purchased SL “whole grain” bread and buns. Well, mainly because they were on sale, but still…

    Glad to see the CSPI being proactive on this issue. I feel more regular already. :)

  5. KW802 says:

    That’ll teach me to read the Sara Lee packaging a bit better. The Sara Lee “Soft & Smooth” has been our shopping favorite recently over Stroehmans & Wonder.

  6. ChuckECheese says:

    @Dervish: The cereals I’m talking about (such as General Mills) do not say “whole wheat,” they say “made with whole grain.” This is a weasel-phrase that has no reference point in reality. Some of these cereals have as little as 3 g of whole oat or wheat per serving, and you’ll have to read the entire cereal box or visit the website to get the truth.

    AFAIK, these statements (“whole grain”) are not regulated by any authority, which is why the CSPI and not the gov’t went after Sara Lee. Sara Lee used weasel language in order to get people to think their product was crunchy and wholesome when in fact it is spongy and anemic. The same goes for Lucky Charms and its ilk.

  7. PinkBox says:

    Ironically, I just ate a sandwich made with Sara Lee Soft & Smooth Honey Wheat bread.

  8. NotATool says:

    Heh. “Romance copy.” Love those marketing terms. File them all under “synonyms for lies and damn lies”.

  9. Dervish says:

    @ChuckECheese: You’re right – I was completely replacing whole grain with whole wheat in my mind.

    It seems like there are very few federal regulations surrounding whole grain. To qualify to use the FDA’s whole grain health claim, a product must contain at least 51% whole grain by weight, and that the whole grains themselves must contain at least 11% fiber. So it seems like there are some standards to the claim, even though it smells like a lamer whole wheat claim at its heart. It also looks like more FDA regulation may be in the works. I don’t really understand how they can have a claim for something when they haven’t even defined the original term, but we all know that the FDA is messed up to begin with.

  10. I don’t care it tastes good.
    Note: I did see a package change when I bought it at Wal-Mart about a week and a half ago but when I just bought it last week it was back to the previous packaging. I’ll see if its still at home and let you know the differences.

  11. donkeyjote says:

    People complaining about WATER? Oh Vey.

  12. TechnoDestructo says:


    I wonder if the person who came up with that term is divorced.

  13. Caduceus says:

    It is the only wheat bread my 4 year old would eat. Damnation. No wonder. I mean no wonder bread.

  14. Triterion says:

    14 point font on a large loaf of bread is going to be pretty tiny anyways, most people won’t see it.

  15. synergy says:

    I think it was on a Consumer Report I first saw that those breads that say things like “made with 7 types of grains!” or somesuch were counting all that stuff they sprinkle on top of the loaf. The rest is brown-dyed white flour. Always check the ingredients!

  16. lingum says:

    Don’t buy bread that has enriched white flour if you care about your health. You might as well eat a tablespoon of sugar.

  17. h0mi says:

    I always looked at the amount of fiber in a typical serving and figured on a slice of bread needing at least 2g and if it didn’t, I’d pass. Or should I be focusing more on ingredients instead?

  18. Juliekins says:

    I subscribe to CSPI’s Nutrition Action Healthletter so I already knew about this. I’m glad it’s getting wider publication. All this “made with whole grains” horseshit makes me mad. We even bought that bread a few times before I realized it’s Wonder bread with window dressing.

    This month’s NAHL took the piss out of all the stuff out there that’s fortified with inulin (aka chicory root extract). Suddenly Fiber One products look a lot less appealing. Bummer.

  19. Juliekins says:

    @h0mi: I missed your post as I wrote mine, but yes, you want to focus more on ingredients than grams of fiber. Whole wheat flour should come first. 100% whole wheat is better. If you see bread with more than 3-4g of fiber per slice, look for words like “inulin/chicory root extract,” or “dextrose,” which are both poorly digested and thus allowed to be counted as fiber–even though they don’t necessarily carry the same benefits as the real thing.

  20. h0mi says:

    Well luckily for me I have a loaf of soft & smooth bread and aside from the “dietary fiber 2g” per slice of bread which is usually where I focused my attention on, the ingredients say:
    whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, HFCS, honey, yeast and other stuff that’s supposedly 2% of the content.

    This is a loaf of wheat bread though, not white bread that supposedly has whole wheat in it.

    I checked my Fiber One cereals and those had corn bran, WGW and wheat bran as the 1st 3 ingredients. 4th was corn starge, and guar gum, along with cellulose gum (?).

  21. allthatsevil says:

    Darn it. I’ve been duped.

    We purchase that bread quite often, but I must admit we mostly get it for taste. It just made me feel better thinking it was whole grain and healthy. I guess I’ll have to re-think my bread purchasing in the future.

  22. Christovir says:

    The real deception here is claiming that white bread has “taste and texture.”

  23. squablow says:

    That Sara Lee bread is magically awesome though, you gotta admit. It’s as good for two weeks as the store brand bread is the first day.

    I don’t care if they use ground up elephant tusk in there to keep it fresh, that shit is good.