Chocolate-covered gall

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As an author, reporter, blogger, and professional speaker, I've staked a lot on the value of public discourse. And that's why this little turd from Hershey Corp. is so offensive.

“It came down to a matter of the FDA believing that the chocolate syrup is a snack food, and that we believe it is more accurately categorized as a milk modifier, similar to products such as Ovaltine and Nesquik that have been fortified for decades,” Beckman said.

The speaker is Jeff Beckman, who puts food on his family's table — including lots and lots of wholesome chocolate, undoubtedly — by seeking to put an acceptable face on questionable-at-best pronouncements like this.

I concede that he's not lying, but that's part of the problem. It's accurate to say that chocolate syrup "modifies" milk when it's added to it. So does salt. So does sewage. So does plutonium. You could call all of them "milk modifiers," and be accurate.

But the truth, in all of those cases, is that such modifications aren't healthy, and isn't that a far more important point than whether it is a modifier?

The subject matter forces Beckman to go there, too, though, when he talks about "fortification," a word that has been applied (read: co-opted) by chocolate advertisers for decades in an attempt to allay parental concerns about regular use of a confection. "Hey, we added some vitamins so you can think it's good for your child," essentially.

But the FDA — hardly the fearless protector of nutritional standards that we need and deserve — "said the company should not use the words 'plus' and 'fortification' on the labels," according to the Patriot-News newspaper.

In a letter dated Feb. 14 and sent to the Hershey Co., the FDA said Hershey’s Syrup+Calcium and its Syrup Sugar Free with Vitamin & Mineral Fortification violated federal law because the nutritional content listed on the labels did not meet the guidelines needed to make the claims.


The producers of whole foods generally don't have to dabble in such misdirection and half-truth because they have the goods. But Big Food is in the business of selling foodlike substances and then paying people like Jeff Beckman to try to make it seem as though it's good for you — or even, not as bad as you think.


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