Every day, we open our newspapers, trade publications, health journals and other forms of electronic communications. And every day, there is at least one story that lays the blame for America’s obesity and Type 2 diabetes epidemic on the demon: Sugar. But not all sugars are being blamed; it’s the added sugar that gets placed into foods unbeknownst to the average consumer who is not reading their food labels.

Witness the recent 60 Minutes feature by Dr. Sanjay Gupta titled “Is Sugar Toxic?” There is a growing movement in the U.S. to regulate sugar in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco, because many believe it is just as addictive to humans as those two substances. Those of us in the baking industry need to be mindful of this issue and address it where it makes sense.

In California, we are blessed to produce raisins, dried plums, figs and dates with no added sugar, and our industries work collectively to promote usage of our products to schools as well as in industrial, foodservice and retail applications. The California Dried Fruit Coalition was established in February 2009, to jointly promote traditionally dried fruit, especially in schools and in government programs such as the Women’s, Infants and Children’s (WIC) program. Recently, California’s WIC program approved the use of raisins for everyone over the age of two. The Produce for a Better Health Foundation also endorses California raisins because they contain only naturally occurring fruit sugars. And the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food-o-Pedia website notes that California raisins contain zero empty calories per serving, while some sugar-added dried fruits contain as many as 66 empty calories per serving. 

Even more encouraging is a movement among such prominent bakers as Craig Ponsford, former chairman of The Bread Bakers Guild of America, a World Cup medal winner and owner of Ponsford’s Place in San Rafael, Calif. Craig has taken up the challenge to eliminate processed sugar from most of the baked goods in his shop. And he is encouraging other bakers to do the same. California’s traditional dried fruit (raisins, dried plums, figs and dates) with no added sugar are featured prominently in his product offerings.

We at the California Raisin Marketing Board wholly endorse this no-added-sugar movement and encourage all grain-based food manufacturers to get on board. And isn’t it interesting that the sugar-added fruit products typically cost quite a bit more?

The USDA on its Value Advantage website touts California Raisins as the most economical dried fruit product available. California Raisins are the right product at the right time!