Your Pumpkin Pie Probably Has No Actual Pumpkin In It

Image courtesy of Great Beyond

We hate to break it to the pumpkin purists out there, but that canned orange stuff you so lovingly scoop into pie shells every Thanksgiving is probably some other kind of squash dressed up as its gourd cousin.

“But the can says ‘100% pumpkin’ right on it!” you may be exclaiming in outrage. It does, and it’s totally allowed to, as MarketPlace pointed out in an August segment that’s been making the rounds recently: The Food and Drug Administration doesn’t make distinctions between pumpkins and its squash relatives, so food companies can slap whatever they want on the label.

“They’re all in the same botanical family, and it’s just a game of semantics,” Serious Eats senior editor Stella Parks told MarketPlace.

Indeed, the the FDA says canned “pumpkin” has been packed from either field pumpkin — Cucurbita pepo — or “certain varieties of firm-shelled, golden-fleshed, sweet squash (Cucurbita maxima), or mixtures of these. Pumpkin and squash are sometimes mixed intentionally to obtain the consistency most acceptable to users.”

To that end, the FDA notes that since 1938, the agency has “consistently advised canners that we would not initiate regulatory action solely because of their using the designation ‘pumpkin’ or ‘canned pumpkin’ on labels for articles prepared from golden-fleshed, sweet squash, or mixtures of such squash with field pumpkins.”

The FDA’s views on mixed gourds probably won’t change any time soon, as the FDA says the absence of evidence that this designation misleads or deceives consumers gives it no reason to revise its stance.

Hey, at least you’ve got something else to talk about with your family at the table this year.