What’s In That Little Blue Packet? Sweet Deception !

We’ve written at length about how companies are employing Deception Engineering to try to fool consumers. It’s usually related to a manufacturer’s attempt to camouflage the fact that you are paying more and getting less.

But the newest deception that the bloodhounds at RoutingByRumor have just picked up the scent of takes the art to a whole new level. Now, it seems to us that manufacturers such as Domino Foods, Inc. are playing games that might affect your health, if not your peace-of-mind. This is where we draw a line in the sand, and say enough is enough.

We used to be one of 7-Eleven‘s best customers. We spent a lot of money on 7-Eleven coffee. Then we discovered Quick Chek. They operate more than 100 convenience stores in New York and New Jersey. We believe Quick Chek offers much better value than 7-Eleven or just about any other convenience store. They also have many more coffee flavors than 7-Eleven offers, and a slew of goodies to let you fix your cup of coffee just the way you like it. There’s also other goodies at Quick Chek stores, like totally fee-free ATMs, where you can get cash without worrying about paying exhorbitant fees to the bank that operates their ATMs. (Of course, if your own bank really sucks, they might still hit you up with a fee for having the audacity to use another bank’s ATM. In that case, it may be time to switch banks.)

Now, if you will, let’s talk about color.

Perhaps the best way to instantly communicate is with color.

Yellow means CAUTION. Green means GO. Red means STOP.

You know that a baby dressed in blue is a BOY, and one dressed in pink is a GIRL.

In most big cities, you know to look for a yellow car when you need a TAXI CAB.

Most POLICE OFFICERS wear blue uniforms.

FIRE ALARMS are always painted red.

MONEY is green (well at least it used to be… U.S. currency has started to look tooty-fruity lately.)

MOURNERS wear black.

BRIDES wear white.

SUGAR (remember that? It’s the natural stuff) comes in white packets.

…some people will only use sugar, choosing to avoid all artificial sweeteners. But if you’re trying to limit your intake of calories, trying to avoid a sugar “rush”, or you are diabetic, there are several artificial sweeteners to choose from…

SPLENDA (or generic sucralose) comes in yellow packets.

and as the back of the packet indicates…

Splenda is made with the artificial sweetener sucralose, and distributed by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, a division of Johnson & Johnson, in Fort Washington, PA. Splenda is suitable for people with diabetes.

SWEET N LOW (or generic saccharin) comes in pink packets…

and as the back of the Sweet N Low packet indicates…

Sweet N Low contains saccharin, and comes to you from Cumberland Packing Corp, Brooklyn, NY. Since it doesn’t say that it’s suitable for diabetics, we’ll assume that it’s not.

EQUAL (or generic aspartame) comes in blue packets…

and as the back of the Equal packet indicates…

Equal is “distributed” by Merisant US, Inc, Chicago. IL (does that mean they manufacture it also?). Equal brand sweetener (and similar products) contains the artificial sweetener aspartame. Aspartame, which is a bazillion times sweeter than sugar, gets metabolized by the body into several compounds, including phenylalanine. People who have the genetic disorder phenylketonuria or “PKU” (they are called “phenylketonurics”) must not consume Equal (or any other sweeteners made with aspartame). That is why, in the United States, at least, products containing phenylalanine must carry the warning “PHENYLKETONURICS: CONTAINS PHENYLALANINE“.

The above packet colors are recognized by just about every coffee and tea drinker in the world that have eyes in their head. Those packet colors are as God intended them to be. Anything else would be blasphemy. If you have PKU, using the wrong colored packet could be deadly. If you are allergic to cancer, you might likewise wish to avoid certain colored packets. Of course, there is a school of thought that says everything that is man-made causes cancer. Perhaps, but life is a mine field, full of choices, and you have to make the best choices you can, based on the available information. A little dose of common sense goes a long way, too. Here’s an excellent article about artificial sweeteners and cancer risk from the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

With the aforementioned knowledge firmly in your grasp, you know immediately, for instance, that this packet…

…contains saccharin, since it is pink. If you want to check, flip the packet over…

…and sure enough, it contains saccharin, just like Sweet N Low. That’s why the packet is pink.

Now if you pick up this packet…

…you’d be lead to believe it contains aspartame. Flip it over to check…

…yup, it’s aspartame, the same stuff that’s in Equal brand sweetener. That’s why this packet is blue.

But Quick Chek’s little blue packets have looked a little different lately, for instance…

…but hey, it’s still blue, so it must be aspartame. Let’s flip it over just to be safe…

Thought we wouldn’t notice, did ya? There’s no aspartame in THIS little blue packet. It contains saccharin. That’s pretty sneaky, don’t you think? And it raises the following question: Why is this packet blue?

So Quick Chek’s little pink packets, as well as their little blue packets, both now contain saccharin. That sucks, pure and simple. We don’t know if the decision to put saccharin into blue packets was Quick Chek’s idea, Domino Sugar’s (Domino Foods) idea, or a joint decision. At this writing, we also do not know if this practice is more widespread than just Domino or Quick Chek.

Why on Earth would they do something like that? Could it be an honest mistake? Giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they used the wrong color paper to make the packets. You don’t think this may be a case of Deception Engineering, do you? I mean, why in the world would the nice people at Quick Chek (or at Domino Foods) try to fool you about what’s in those little blue packets?  Aren’t these businesses concerned that they are destroying consumer’s trust in their brands… or does the profit motive blind them to any ethical considerations?

Just thinking out loud for a second, could it be because saccharin is a fraction of the cost of aspartame? For instance, Sweet N Low brand sweetener has always been much less expensive than Equal brand or Splenda brand sweeteners, and the same holds true for the generic versions of saccharin versus aspartame. (We don’t believe there’s a generic version of Splenda on the market, since we’ve never seen generic yellow packets of Splenda-like sweetener.)

This is about much more than which sweetener tastes better. There are many consumers who avoid using saccharin because of concerns that it may be a carcinogen. The fact is that from 1981 thru 2000, saccharin was listed by the U.S. government as a possible carcinogen. Products containing saccharin were required to carry the following warning: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” Saccharin was removed from the carcinogen list after further research failed to confirm any link to cancer, but many people, including this author, avoid all foods containing saccharin. We are not amused with the fact that Domino Foods, Quick Check, and probably other manufacturers and retailers, are apparently trying to slip saccharin past us, no doubt in an effort to save money. If you wish to avoid products containing saccharin, read our related article, “What’s In That Cup Of Diet Soda?“.

We suspect that this article will elicit a lot of comments from readers who are as outraged as we were to discover this deception.

- Routing By Rumor

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3 Comments

Filed under Business, Consumerism, Deception Engineering, Food, Health, Life, Money, News, Personal, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Scams, Shopping, Shrinking Products, Your Health, Your Money

3 responses to “What’s In That Little Blue Packet? Sweet Deception !

  1. Want to learn more about artificial sweeteners? Keep an eye out for my blog, discovering all there is to know about Stevia. Way better for diabetics (and everyone else) than the “blue” or “pink” packets.

    - Syracuse, New York

  2. Rudy Beatty

    I happen to know that there is deception in the other direction as well. I happen to want the “pink” packet. I have no problem with saccharine and I have twice reported to my Quick Chek that they are putting something other than Saccharine in their pink packet.

    It seemed to be resolved; however, today the non-saccharine pink packet was there again. I managed to dig out a few of the saccharine packets. The fact is that the obvious difference to me is the sweetness of the product. This was confirmed by another customer who was standing next to me today when I commented that the pink was not Sweet n Low. She then stated, so that’s what’s wrong, I thought it was the coffee!

    This is simply wrong! Quick Chek should seriously consider putting what is expected by the customer where it is advertised (by accepted color) in their stores. I am greatly disappointed; I have been a frequent customer and I am now considering a trip to 7-11. That other customer today might have also been considering other locations since her coffee was “not tasting the same”.

    - Somerville, New Jersey

  3. John Schaninger

    I just saw this today (1/13/2009). I wish someone had contacted us. This appears to have been a mix up by the producer at that time. I can assure you that our “blue” packet is essentially the same as that other “blue” packet, and I verified that in a store this morning. Thank you for the nice comments about Quick Chek as a whole.
    John Schaninger
    VP Sales and Merchandising
    Quick Chek

    - Whitehouse Station, New Jersey

    Response from RoutingByRumor…

    Once again, proof positive that companies do read, and care about, what bloggers post about them! We’ve seen some posts on this blog attract lots of traffic from IP addresses associated with the companies we’ve written about, sometimes within hours of posting an article.

    Thank you for the explanation regarding the mix-up at your manufacturer. Unfortunately, from the comment, we can’t tell if that means that the mistake was the paper color of the packets (meaning that the ingredient list was correct, and that it was not aspartame in the blue packets), or whether the wrong ingredient list was printed on blue packets that contained aspartame. Then again, it could have been a comedy of errors, and the packets could have contained neither aspartame or saccharin. Maybe some folks can distinguish different artificial sweetners by tasting the stuff, but we’d have to send the contents to a laboratory to be sure.

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