Photo: _rockinfree, Flickr
Ben & Jerry's, the peace-lovin' ice cream icon, started out as a couple of ex-hippies serving homemade ice cream from a converted gas station in downtown Burlington, Vermont. Since then they've achieved worldwide fame -- and been bought out by Unilever, the giant international conglomerate of more than 400 brands. All along, the company has assured fans that they're the same as they've always been. But yesterday the company dropped a bombshell: They announced they'll be removing "all-natural" from its labels.
Turns out some of Ben & Jerry's flavors contain ingredients that stretch most people's idea of "natural" -- ingredients like hydrogenated oils, invert sugar, and corn syrup. The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a watchdog group that advocates for sound policy in nutrition and public health, called Ben & Jerry's out last month in a pointed letter, saying that although the company had "cultivated an image of integrity," it's been "making a misleading use of the term 'natural.' "
Ben & Jerry's has been compliant with the FDA all along -- but CSPI sees that as part of the problem. The FDA hasn't come up with an official definition of "natural," so while the public has one idea of what it means, a food purveyor can have quite another. "Apparently your corporation continues to believe that substances like hydrogenated oil and alkalized cocoa powder are 'all natural,' " the CSPI wrote stiffly.