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'Sugar-free' baked goods, with sugar? What is a dieter to do?

March 15, 2013|By Eryn Brown
  • These muffins are not sugar-free. Neither are "sugar-free" treats sold by Butterfly Bakery of Clifton, N.J., according to the Food and Drug Administration.
These muffins are not sugar-free. Neither are "sugar-free"… (Gary Friedman/Los Angeles…)

As if studying product labels to keep tabs on calories, carbs and fat grams wasn't painful enough, now dieters have this to worry about: one bakery's "goodies that taste good without being bad" are actually quite naughty, after all.

Clifton, N.J.-based Butterfly Bakery promises careful eaters that its sugar-free, no-sugar-added and gluten-free baked goods "will turn your dietary restriction into a dietary indulgence." 

An indulgence, indeed: on Wednesday, the Food and Drug Administration said that tests on samples of Butterfly Bakery products showed that foods labeled as "sugar free" had sugar and that claims about sugar and fat content were false and misleading -- and that the agency obtained a consent decree that effectively shut down operations at the company "for unlawfully distributing mislabeled food products, such as muffins and snack cakes." 

Problems with the goodies had been ongoing for years. According to a warning letter issued by the agency in 2011, analysis in FDA laboratories showed that a Butterfly Bakery product called "No Sugar Added Blueberry Muffins" had 170% more saturated and unsaturated fat than the label purported (9.44 grams, as opposed to 3.5 grams) , that another product called "Sugar Free Double Chocolate Chip Muffins" also had far more fat than labeled, and that neither goodie properly warned consumers about the presence of a milk product, sodium caseinate, in the recipe.  Serving sizes were mislabeled as well.

According to the FDA release, Butterfly Bakery will not be able to process or distribute food until its operations are proven to comply with the law.  The FDA may also assess damages against the company.

Butterfly Bakery's website is currently "under construction."  But in a statement posted on its Facebook page on Wednesday, the company “acknowledged” the FDA claims and said that it had been working with the FDA since 2011 to try to ensure compliance. The statement noted that “only 3 out of Butterfly's 45 items were sited [sic]” and added that the bakery was “confident that our product claims were true.”

So in the meantime, what's a dieter to do?  This post from ABC News quoted an FDA spokesperson who said that finding added fat and sugar in products that purport to be sugar-free was not a common occurrence. That means you should be able to eat those diet treats without worrying about it.

One way to always know what's in that treat you're eating: stick with fresh fruit.

Follow me on Twitter: @LATerynbrown

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