I’m sitting in front of a bottle of Sprite soda that makes a promise, or at least it appears to.
100% Natural Flavors, it says.
I look to the short list of ingredients: Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavors, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate (to protect taste) Which of those are natural flavors?
I don’t know what the sodium citrate does. It doesn’t sound natural, but it might be, or it might not be a flavor at all. Carbonated water doesn’t have a flavor, so I suppose it doesn’t count as unfairly natural that there’s carbonation in the water.
Then there are “natural flavors”. Sprite claims it’s got natural flavors, but then it doesn’t say what they are. If they’re secret, how do I know that they’re really natural? Furthermore, how do I know that they’re a healthy sort of natural? Maybe those natural flavors are extract of poison ivy, dog poo and bread mold. What’s the point of a list of ingredients if it doesn’t actually list the ingredients?
Is sodium benzoate a flavor, if it is added to “protect taste”? That’s debatable, but it’s pushing the edge. Citric acid has natural sources – but is it still natural if it’s extracted to be a separate ingredient, apart from its source?
Finally, there’s high fructose corn syrup. There’s no such thing as corn syrup in nature. For that matter, there’s no such thing as corn in nature. Perhaps some syrupy substance might ooze from a pile of corn if it were left to rot, but I don’t think that’s the syrup that the Sprite bottle is talking about. Even if there was corn syrup in nature, the concentration of it into a high fructose state wouldn’t be natural.
It doesn’t seem very honest for Sprite to claim to have 100 percent natural flavors… unless the label is supposed to mean that there are just some 100 percent natural flavors in the drink, rather than meaning that 100 percent of the flavors in the drink are natural.
That’s clever word play, but it’s not fair to the natural language of people shopping for something to drink in a grocery store. If we had a Food and Drug Administration that was doing its job, it would regulate the use of this kind of language. Naturally, the FDA is too far in the pocket of agribusiness and food manufacturers to deal with such matters.