Jun 22, 2012
New standards worry cranberry industry

The federal government is expected to propose new nutrition standards soon that could leave a bitter taste in the mouths of cranberry growers from Massachusetts to Wisconsin.

To address childhood obesity in America, an effort spurred by first lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiative, the Department of Agriculture is finalizing guidelines for what can be sold in school vending machines, stores and a la carte cafeteria lines. Sugar is widely viewed as a target, and sweetened beverages like cranberry juice cocktail could be deemed unhealthy.

That would be unfortunate and unfair, cranberry industry officials say, because the tart, deep red fruit is loaded with nutrients and health benefits. But for consumers to avail themselves of those benefits, cranberries must be sweetened.

“Cranberries can be sweetened with anything,” said Linda Prehn, a cranberry grower in Tomah, citing apple juice as an example. “But you can’t eat ’em raw. They’re tough to eat straight up.”

Prehn, chairman of United Cranberry Growers Cooperative, a collective of 85 growers in Massachusetts, Oregon and Wisconsin in the U.S. and New Brunswick and Quebec in Canada, was among cranberry industry honchos attending the recent inaugural meeting of the Congressional Cranberry Caucus on Capitol Hill. The Green Bay Press-Gazette

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