Saturday, March 3, 2012

Meta-Post on Ingredients

For some time I've been meaning to write a brief post on how I write my ingredient lists, just to be clear to readers, so here I go.

U.S. laws require that companies report ingredients in order of how much is in the product. Bread starts with flour and candy with sugar, and ingredients present in small quantities usually come at the end, which is why you'll never see soy lecithin or vanilla listed first on your chocolate bars. That's easy for me to replicate here. 

Where it gets more complicated, I bend the rules for simplicity:
  • I break up ingredients that have their own ingredients. If I read “Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, toffee nuggets (sugar, butter, vanilla), vanilla,” I just write “Cocoa mass, sugar, cocoa butter, butter, vanilla.” I can't guarantee it's in appropriate weight order, but I just want readers to know the basics of what's in these chocolate bars; the details you can look for elsewhere if you really care. If the details are relevant to my review, I mention them myself. 
  • I generally attempt to standardize ingredients. If a label lists “sugar,” I write “sugar.” If it lists “cane sugar,” I write “cane sugar.” But if an earthy-crunchy-organic company boasts “evaporated cane juice,” I write “cane sugar” for standardization purposes. I don't have a problem with “evaporated cane juice” as a label, this just makes things less confusing when I'm reviewing different but similar products every week.
  • I try to use American spellings even if labels don't. Last week's licorice bar actually used the spelling “liquorice” in the ingredients, but aside from when it's in the bar's name, I'll revert to American spelling. I like talking about how a company is French or Danish or whatnot, but I'd rather my ingredient reporting be consistent.

I do see a benefit to just writing ingredients the way they're listed on the box, but at some point I found lists that were particularly confusing (or I was translating them myself and knew I might not do it the way the company would have), so I made a choice to go this route. And now you know!

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