For over 40 years, Pop-Tarts have been a part of American breakfast tradition. A thin pastry surrounding a sweetened jelly, wrapped in space age foil to preserve freshness. No need to refrigerate. Ready to eat or quickly heated in a toaster. A marvel of food ingenuity.
America has handsomely rewarded Kellogg's, the manufacturer, for its ingenuity (even though Kellogg's got the idea from Quaker). By 2006, Kellogg's was selling over $400 Million worth of Pop-Tart products a year. To this day, Pop-Tarts account for 80% of the "toaster-pastry" segment.
I beg to differ. Pop-Tarts are an unfortunate tradition that needs to be stopped. Immediately.
What you need to know:
Let's begin with the Pop-Tarts packaging. It is deceiving at best -- the image of fresh blueberries surrounding a pastry rich in blueberry filling does not match the reality of less than 2% blueberry content in the product. Adding to the deceit, there's a large font "made with real fruit" on the front panel.
Reading the nutrition label does not add joy to life:
A single pastry is 200 calories, 150 of which are from carbohydrates. The 17 grams of sugar are equivalent to over four teaspoons worth. A pop tart is one third sugar by weight. There is less than 1 gram of fiber, and despite the labeling saying Trans Fats are 0, there is a certain amount present due to the use of partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
A serving size is defined as one pastry, but since they are packed 2 per foil, people can just as easily double the amount of calories.The ingredient list is as long as the backup on the Bay Area's highway 101 on Monday morning:
Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Dextrose, Soybean And Palm Oil (With TBHQ For Freshness), Sugar, Cracker Meal, Contains Two Percent Or Less Of Wheat Starch, Salt, Dried Blueberries, Dried Grapes, Dried Apples, Cornstarch, Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Corn Cereal, Citric Acid, Gelatin, Modified Wheat Starch, Soy Lecithin, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And/Or Cottonseed Oil?, Modified Corn Starch, Xanthan Gum, Caramel Color, Red #40, Vitamin A Palmitate, Tricalcium Phosphate, Color Added, Niacinamide, Reduced Iron, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Blue #2, Blue #1, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Thiamin Hydrochloride (Vitamin B1), Turmeric Color, Folic Acid.
Here's a brief explanation of what's inside -- (note all the variations of sugar in here):
Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour...) -- All flour is enriched in the US, by law. Don't be fooled by "Wheat Flour" either, as most flour is from Wheat. If the ingredient list does not state "100% whole wheat flour," you are missing out on the fiber your body needs.
Corn Syrup -- a syrup made from cornstarch. Used as a sweetener due to its high glucose content. Prevents crystallization and can help increase shelf life in baked goods.
High Fructose Corn Syrup -- corn syrup where some of the glucose has been swapped out in favor of fructose.
Dextrose -- another term for glucose. glucose and fructose together make sucrose, which is commonly known as table sugar.
Soybean And Palm Oil -- Canola oil would have been a healthier alternative because of its high unsaturated fat content.
TBHQ (E319) -- tert-Butylhydroquinone -- a preservative for oils. May be carcinogenic in high doses.
Sugar -- well, the product is still not sweet enough is it?
Wheat Starch -- A powdery substance obtained from wheat kernels. Used as a thickener for sauces, gravies, and puddings.
Dried Blueberries, Dried Grapes, Dried Apples -- there's less than 2% of each in the product. Yet on the product image you see much much more than 2% blueberry.
Cornstarch -- a powdery substance used as a thickener.
Citric Acid -- a natural preservative that is used in beverages to add an acidic, sour taste. Although it is naturally found in citrus fruit (oranges, lemons), industry has a found a cheaper way to manufacture it. This is through a fermentation process in which a mold called Aspergillus Niger is used to ferment a carbohydrate such as molasses. sounds grosser than it really is.
Gelatin (E441) -- a translucent, colorless, brittle, nearly tasteless solid substance, derived from the collagen inside animals' skin and bones. It is commonly used as a gelling agent.
Modified Wheat Starch -- same as the wheat starch above but modified not to loose its thickening properties when heated.
Soy Lecithin (E322) -- an oily substance derived from soybeans. Used as an emulsifier and to keep the dough from sticking
Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And/Or Cottonseed Oil -- this is the source of trans-fat, folks.
Modified Corn Starch -- a common additive used as a thickener. Corn starches are modified so they won't lose their thickening properties when heated.
Xanthan Gum (E415) -- a common emulsifier and thickener made from reaction between glucose and Xanthomonas campestris bacteria.
Caramel Color (E150) -- a natural food coloring.
Red #40 (Allura Red / E129) -- an artificial food coloring that is being phased out in Europe due to concerns about it causing hyperactivity in kids.
Tricalcium Phosphate (E341) -- used as a raising agent.
Color Added -- on top of the artificial colors stated by name we get this mystery color.
Niacinamide -- This is vitamin B3.
Natural And Artificial Flavors -- with all the crap in this product, no wonder it needs to be enhanced by some proprietary and secret formulas.
Blue #2 -- artificial color
Blue #1 (Brilliant Blue FCF / E133) -- a synthetic dye derived from coal tar! Was previously banned in Europe but now is allowed. May cause hyperactivity in children.
Turmeric Color -- a yellow/orange powder from the turmeric spice.
Conclusion: this product should not exist in Obese America 2009. The light fortification with various vitamins and minerals cannot compensate for the sugar overdose, lack of fiber, and overwhelming use of additives, preservatives, and artificial food coloring.
Pop-tarts are no-starts. They are a terrible product to start your kids' day.
What to do at the supermarket:
Stay away from Pop-tarts. In the time it takes to heat them, you can spread peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat bread and top it with sliced bananas and a teaspoonful of honey.
Follow Hemi Weingarten on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fooducate