Ricola is NOT “just natural” – and not healthyFebruary 24, 2007
Time flies and it has been a week already since my last post. Shows how easy it is to break a (good) habit.
Anyway, I am back. Happy Lunar New Year to one and all. And “happy birthday” too. If I remember correctly, today 24 February is the 7th day of the Lunar New Year and, according to Chinese culture, today is “everybody’s birthday”!
One possible post I suggested was about Ricola, the Swiss herbal candy, which uses the slogan “It’s just natural” even though it contains the artificial sweetener, aspartame.
Today, I finally got an email reply from Mark Berger at The Mouth Blog saying: “I checked the food label of Ricola cough drops and didn’t see ‘Aspartame’ listed… I was concerned when you mentioned it.”
Just to be sure, I went to check again at 7-Eleven a while ago. The front of the Ricola packet says “Sugar free” and the ingredients’ list on the back includes ‘Aspartame’. It also carries the usual warning that it contains phenylalanine, a substance that must be avoided by people born with a rare genetic condition called phenylketonuria (PKU).
I realised that some double standards are being applied here. When I did a Google search for “Ricola ingredients”, true enough I don’t see aspartame listed, only sugar.
But when I did a similar search on “Ricola” and clicked “Pages from Singapore”, I am led to the Ricola Asia website as well as The Ricola Club website.
There is no mention of aspartame there either, but it says “100% natural” as well as “sugar free”. This is obviously the version I found at 7-Eleven, containing aspartame.
Under “About Ricola”, the website adds:
All Ricola products are made from 100% natural herbs… There’s not a single artificial flavour or colour in Ricola products. It’s the 13 natural Swiss Mountain Herbs that have been giving Ricola sugar free Lozenges and Pearls their unique gentle, soothing and refreshing character.
So now you know that Ricola products not only taste good, but they’re healthy too!
Notice the careful wording there? They say “100% natural herbs” rather than “100% natural ingredients”. (In any case, is there such a thing as “unnatural herb”? Of course all herbs are natural!)
They also say “not a single artificial flavour or colour” rather than “not a single artificial ingredient”.
This is yet another case where consumers have to be extra careful when reading food labels. ALWAYS read the ingredients list rather than product descriptions and slogans like “It’s just natural”.
So is Ricola healthy?
Perhaps the US or European version is, provided one does not take too much because sugar is not exactly a healthy food. As for the Singaporean / Asian variety, my recommendation is to avoid it!