Ben & Jerry's No Longer Claiming To Be 'All Natural'

Ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's says it's dropping the phrase "all natural" from some of its cartons. The move was announced Monday, after a request from a health advocacy group. NPR's Robert Siegel and Melissa Block have the news.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And Robert, we're going to take a turn now from marijuana to ice cream.

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Right, some would say a natural transition, but in the case of Ben & Jerry's, not necessarily all natural. The company that brought us Chubby Hubby, Chunky Monkey, Cherry Garcia and Phish Food is taking the phrase all natural off its ice cream.

BLOCK: That's because of pressure from a watchdog called The Center for Science in the Public Interest. Michael Jacobson is the Executive Director.

Mr. MICHAEL JACOBSON (Executive Director, The Center for Science in the Public Interest): I looked at the ingredients, and some had cocoa processed with alkali. Others had corn syrup and corn syrup solids. One had partially hydrogenated soybean oil. All of these things are factory made. They do not occur in nature.

SIEGEL: Jacobson said he first contacted Ben & Jerry's parent company, Unilever, back in 2002. Eight years later, the label all natural was still stamped on pints of Ben & Jerry's, and Jacobson was fed up.

Mr. JACOBSON: So we wrote another letter to Unilever asking about this, urging them to change it and suggesting we might take legal action if we they didn't change it.

BLOCK: Well, yesterday Unilever announced they would make that change. But the company stresses it did not violate any food-labeling rules by calling Ben & Jerry's all natural.

SIEGEL: We got that straight from someone very important at Ben & Jerry's.

Mr. SEAN GREENWOOD (Grand Poobah of Public Relations, Ben & Jerry's): On my business card, it says grand poobah of public relations.

SIEGEL: The Grand Poobah, Sean Greenwood, has been working for Ben & Jerry's for more than 20 years. And Greenwood says the company is taking all natural off its packaging because it is tired of arguing over semantics.

Mr. GREENWOOD: We're still using natural ingredients, and we're also really proud about the fair trade commitments that we've made and the cage-free eggs that we're using or bovine-growth-hormone-free milk that we're using, and we can concentrate more on those. And those things for us are the bigger-picture issues.

BLOCK: So the bigger picture: Ben & Jerry's wants you to have a clear conscience as you dig into that Chunky Monkey: banana ice cream, fudge chunks, walnuts and a little alkalized cocoa.

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