Letter: Tell the Truth

Letter to the Editor

I do not like it when companies lie to me. As a SARS-CoV-2 virus home-sheltered senior, I was forced to purchase Lucerne plain yogurt instead of my usual Mountain High plain yogurt. I made sure that the front of the container said “plain” because I did not want added sugar, added starch, stabilizers, etc. The texture of the “yogurt” I found when I tore off the protective sheet of the lid of the Lucerne yogurt container was not the custard-like texture I was expecting. It was a syrup that could be poured like a liquid instead of the gelatinous texture that requires a spoon to remove. I got my glasses to peer at the fine print that listed the ingredients. The second ingredient was added sugar; the third ingredient was starch. And not a small amount of sugar but 8 grams of added sugar, nearly half of the carbohydrate content, which added 30 calories more per serving than the Mountain High plain yogurt. The first five synonyms for “plain” are “simple,” “ordinary,” “unadorned,” “undecorated” and “unembellished.” 

“Plain yogurt” should be simple, unadorned, unembellished yogurt. Once yogurt has substantial sugar and starch added to it, it is not “plain yogurt.” I was lied to. From searching the internet, it appears that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) legally permits the word “plain” to be used for commercial yogurt products with added sweeteners. If the consumer wants a yogurt with no added sweeteners or starches, they should look for the word, “natural.” I don’t treat each grocery purchase as a lawyer-vetted transaction. I don’t care if the USDA says that Lucerne is legally entitled to describe its yogurt as “plain” when the “yogurt” has a lot more in it than just plain yogurt. I don’t know what the Lucerne executives learned about ethics in their business school courses, but to call 8 grams of added sugar “yogurt” is a lie. The accumulation of these small lies explains why American consumers are the fattest in the world, 42.4 percent obese at last count, and why they live three years less than most western Europeans.

William McCarthy