You Say Sugar - Whole Foods Says 'Evaporated Cane Juice' And Charges More

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To a scientist, sugar is sugar.

To Whole Foods marketing experts, some sugars are superior to others (in the minds of their customers), so if they want to sell people "evaporated cane juice" in a cookie -- crystallized sugar from sugar cane, which is sugar -- well, they can.

Does it sound healthier than sugar? A class action lawsuit says that is the plan. Meanwhile, the response from Whole Foods is that it's "an added sweetener derived from sugar cane, not like other sugar, which it hopes is a legal nuance.

To people who understand the dark underbelly of food marketing, that is just a clever way of saying a product has "added sugar" without saying it; marketing experts understand that would be damaging to the Whole Foods health halo. In the body, evaporated cane juice is processed the same way as any other sugar, and it has the same calories. It just has a different color because some people prefer white sugar.

So is there a difference? You will never get a job in Whole Foods (or Chobani, or Blue Diamond) marketing asking questions like that. But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has asked, and it didn't like what it found, issuing draft guidance stating that companies should not use "evaporated cane juice" when it is added because it is "false and misleading."

Whole Foods says its customers know it's just sugar and that the plaintiff can't show any proof that any customers thought it was anything but sugar, though it remains a puzzle why it bothers to use it if everyone knows better. A judge is unlikely to buy it for one other reason: while Whole Foods marketing has also convinced its customers that an organic pineapple is superior, they don't realize that all it really is... is just more expensive.

Hank Campbell is the President of the American Council on Science and Health. He can also be reached on Facebook, Twitter and Science 2.0.