Why You Should Avoid Buying Blueberry-Flavored Products

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Blueberries are beloved. We like them in our muffins, our smoothies, and our desserts. And according to The Packer, blueberries unsurprisingly have a robust fan base in America. Just this past March, Roland Fumasi, vice president and senior analyst for RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness in Fresno, Calif. shared that blueberries had the third-highest rate of growth in the fruit market. This makes sense when you consider that according to a survey of 200 U.S. registered dietitians, 86 percent of them said they "recommend blueberries frequently or always." Blueberries are clearly a favored fruit, which is why it pains us to say that you may want to avoid buying blueberry-flavored products. This is definitely not something any blueberry lover wants to hear, but here's why.

Not everything that is labeled blueberry-flavored is going to contain real blueberries. It's a harsh reality, but true. According to HuffPost, those little blueberry pieces, dots, and flecks in our muffin mixes, snack bars, and cereals may not actually be blueberries. They may, in fact be nothing more than sugar, corn syrup, and a bit of food coloring — a beautiful shade of blue in most cases, if you ask us — but still, not the real thing.

Scan the ingredients label for signs of fake blueberries

 HuffPost also notes that it gets even more confusing because there are some foods that may have real fruit but it is mixed with both natural and artificial components and are affectionately called "half-berries." The blog Day2DayJoy expands on this topic, explaining that many blueberry-flavored products we love actually only have "blueberry bits" or "crunchlets." In 2011, NPR did a story about these crunchlets and cautioned that if you read the ingredients on a box of Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats that are blueberry muffin-flavored, you would know that it says blueberry-flavored crunchlets right on the list of ingredients. 

Fast forward to today, and the ingredients still do not say anything about real blueberries, but they've also removed any reference to blueberry-flavored crunchlets. Additionally, My Recipes points out that Jiffy Blueberry Muffin Mix used to make the list of fake blueberry-flavored products because it listed the ingredients on the box as "artificially flavored with imitation berries;" however, over the years, that appears to have changed and now the box states that it is "artificially and naturally flavored."

This leaves blueberry lovers at a curious crossroad: what to do? NPR urges consumers to read the labels and determine if the ingredients are acceptable to you as a consumer. Don't forget, you can always add fresh blueberries to any of your favorite meals, and then you know it's real.