Papadellis says the Agriculture Department’s school meal guidelines suggested limits on sugar intake overlook the antioxidants, vitamins and other health benefits cranberries provide. Because of their mouth-puckering tartness, cranberries require a lot of added sugar to make them palatable.
“Unfortunately when we [sweeten the fruit], we get trapped into some of this debate on added sugars. We’re just trying to raise the visibility of cranberries being unique. On a per-ounce basis, cranberries may be more nutrient than almost any fruit you can get out there,” Papadellis said. “The real issue is the other beverages with sugar, how much nutrients are you bringing in.”
Earlier this year, cranberry growers got a reprieve for dried cranberries under the Agriculture Department’s nutrition standards for school lunch and breakfast meals. The department in an interim final rule in June allowed exemptions for total sugar standards for dried whole fruits or vegetables; dried whole fruit or vegetable pieces; dehydrated fruits or vegetables with no added nutritive sweeteners; and dried fruits with nutritive sweeteners that are required for processing and/or palatability purposes.
“My primary concern is that many of other customer constituencies will look to those USDA guidelines to make their own decision on what is healthy and what isn’t. We want to make sure our government isn’t sending the wrong signals about cranberries,” he said.
Papadellis said his industry is trying to win similar leeway for cranberry juice cocktail.