Alternative facts strike again, and this time they’re coming for our blueberries. That blueberry granola bar you munched on this morning is very likely flavored with fake blueberries. In fact, the wrinkly so-called fruit pieces in your cereal, muffins, and bagels may not have anything in common with fruit at all. Although recorded on ingredient lists with vague names like “blueberry pieces,” “blueberry powder,” and “blueberry crunchlets,” it has been proven that the substances are typically mixtures of sugars, starch, and blue dye #2. Womp. Though the information has been available for years, first publicized in a 2011 investigation video by Natural News via Consumer Wellness Center, we’re probably still eating fake blueberries every morning in 2017.
The chilling video, featuring background music typically reserved for CSI-style shows, explains that the blueberries in many of our favorite fruity breakfast options are no more than sugar-coated lies. According to the video, the manufacturers' trick is simple: Slap giant photos of plump blueberries on the boxes, yet print their artificially flavored composition in thin typeface somewhere near the bottom. “Turn the packages around, and suddenly the blueberries disappear… replaced in the ingredients list with sugars, oils, and artificial colors derived from petrochemicals.” After the video came out, NPR cited a member of FDA’s intention to assess the blueberry-peddling products to determine their legality, but no such advancements have been publicized.
Indeed, some products that advertise the inclusion of "fresh blueberries," like Kind Blueberry Pecan bars (listed as “blueberry pieces” on the back of the box) do include the real fruit, albeit the ingredient is also made with apple juice, vegetable glycerin, citrus pectin and sunflower oil. However, other brands don’t even feel the need to qualify their choice to fake the fruit—or at least for a while they didn’t. Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix used to state explicitly on the box that the mix was "artificially flavored with imitation berries." While the blueberry-free ingredient list has not changed, the packaging has since avoided mentioning from where the blueberry flavor derives altogether, advertising it is “naturally and artificially flavored.” Perhaps they’re referring to the fructose?
You kind of already knew it, right? Every mouthful of that blueberry-flavored cereal tasted vaguely like a berry, but it definitely wasn’t the same as the real deal. Best to go with your gut—if you’re actually trying to get a daily boost of antioxidants from your morning meal, buy plain cereal and add fresh blueberries accordingly.