In 2005, Sara Lee revolutionized the bread world with a product that was neither white nor whole wheat. It was “Soft & Smooth.” Made with a combination of bleached and whole-wheat flour, the bread was and is touted as a dose of whole grain goodness with the texture and taste of white. Kids (and adults) could continue to sandwich their peanut butter between two soft, airy slices yet consume the fiber other brands were missing. America ate it up. “Soft & Smooth” quickly became the country’s second best-selling white bread, losing only to the classic Wonder. But a touch of negative press may end Sara Lee’s reign of glory.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is threatening to sue Sara Lee for making false claims. In their opinion, the phrase “whole grain goodness” is a lesson in hyperbole. The bread is 70-percent refined flour and only 30 percent whole grain. It’s providing consumers with a false sense of whole-grain security. They believe that with each bite they near the recommended three servings a day, but in actuality, if “Soft & Smooth” is their only source, they aren’t even coming close. The same is true for dozens of other products alleging to be made with cracked wheat or multi-grains. Elaborate claims on the front of the package lure in whole-wheat seekers but provide them with little more than refined flour and a little food coloring.
If you want to be an intelligent, well-informed and whole-wheat-sated consumer, you need to turn the package over when shopping. Read the list of ingredients not the clever phrases PR reps were paid hundreds of dollars to develop. If whole-wheat flour is the FIRST ingredient, you’re good to go. If it’s a little further down the list, you may want to look for an alternative. There are breads made with 100-percent whole-wheat flour that mimic the taste and texture of white. And if you’re trying to ease into whole wheat, turning to a barely-there whole-wheat product, isn’t the worst first step. At least, you’re a little closer. Just keep chewing.