A nutritional label showing zero grams of trans fat on a package… (Jeffrey F. Bill, Baltimore…)
There's nothing different about your Berger cookie. It's just the nutritional label that's changed.
A sharp-eyed shopper wrote in to tell us that he had tried the Berger cookie that has 0 grams of trans fat, and that it tasted just as good as the 1-gram fudge-topped classic that's been produced and enjoyed in Baltimore for generations.
We went out and bought a pack of trans-fat-free Berger and we also couldn’t see or taste anything different about the new Berger cookie.
That's because there is no difference.
The Berger cookie has not been reformulated in anticipation of proposed federal regulations that would ban trans fats. The labels are apparently just wrong.
The nutritional label should say what it always had said: that the cookies have 1 gram of trans fat each, according to bakery owner Charles DeBaufre Jr.
"It was a mistake," DeBaufre said. "[The nutritional label] is something we just buy. I don't know why they changed it. I signed off on it without looking."
DeBaufre said he has temporarily stopped shipping cookies from his Cherry Hill bakery until he can get small stickers to place on top of the incorrect labels. He said the company had no plans to recall the packages now in stores.
On Friday morning, the 0-gram trans fat nutritional information label was on the Berger cookie website.
The Berger bakery may eventually have to change not only its nutritional label but the Berger cookie itself if the Food and Drug Administration decides that trans fats are not safe in foods. Under FDA rules, a substance can only be added to foods if it has been determined to be “Generally Regarded as Safe,” or GRAS.
"If the FDA makes a final determination that partially hydrogenated oils are not GRAS, these oils would be considered 'food additives’ and could not be used unless authorized by regulation," according to FDA spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman.
The FDA is in the process of reviewing the more than 1,600 comments that came in during a public comment period on the topic, according to Eisenman.
"At this time, we cannot predict when we will reach our final decision," Eisenman said.
If the FDA does stop allowing trans fats, it will give producers like DeBaufre adequate time to reformulate products using alternative ingredients, Eisenman said.
DeBaufre said he won’t know what his options are until the new rules come out. But he is continuing to experiment with fudge made from trans-fat free shortenings but has not yet made any changes to the Berger cookie.
"I can taste the difference," DeBaufre said about the trans-fat free shortenings he's tried.
But other tasters aren't as reliable, DeBaufre said. They will sometimes strongly prefer one batch of fudge over another when both batches were made with the old recipe, or both made with the new test recipe. Sometimes, a taster will detect pronounced difference between fudge made in the same bowl.
DeBaufre said he understands that his volunteer tasters don’t want to look bad.
"You feel like a failure,” he said, “if you can't tell the difference.”