A New Jersey bakery that specializes in low-sugar, sugar-free, and gluten-free treats closed indefinitely after officials claimed it mislead consumers. The FDA and state officials found that some of their products contained sugar, allergens, and far more fat than was listed on the labels.
The crackdown was a warning for consumers: If it tastes too good to be healthy, it might be.
The FDA also sent a message to retailers, citing in a statement to press, that they plan to take action against "companies that mislead consumers on the products they purchase."
In the meantime, the FDA is making an example of Butterfly Bakery in Clifton, New Jersey. “Until Butterfly Bakery meets FDA regulations, it will no longer be able to process or distribute their products," Melinda K. Plaisier, the FDA’s acting associate commissioner for regulatory affairs, said in a statement.
Butterfly Bakery sold its baked goods online and shipped them to grocery stores around the country. Company owner Brenda Isaac acknowledges the FDA's claims and confirmed that the bakery is presently closed.
"We have voluntarily closed our facility," she told Yahoo! Shine on Thursday. "We were not shut down. We are working with our attorneys to rectify the situation, but we are not shut down."
In a press release on Wednesday, the FDA stated that "Samples tested by both FDA and state officials over several years show that Butterfly Bakery’s product labeling was false and misleading."
"Laboratory analysis showed that foods labeled as 'sugar free' contained sugar, and that certain products contained as much as three times the amount of labeled/declared sugar, two times the amount of labeled/declared fat, and two times the amount of labeled/declared saturated fat," the FDA claimed.
But Isaac told Yahoo! Shine that her company had addressed those concerns in May 2011, by updating their labels and changing the portion sizes of some of their products. The sugar found in sugar-free products may have been "residual sugar from natural ingredients," she said in a phone interview, adding that while she did not know which sugar-free items had been tested by the FDA, it's possible that those products should have been labeled "no sugar added" rather than "sugar free." The bakery produces 45 different types of treats, three of which were singled out by the FDA.
"In business, you worry about everything," Isaac told NJ.com in 2011. "You worry about your name brand, reputation, the consumer and the laboratory. We've had our product out there so long we would have never suspected anything. It was a shocker."
After testing some of the company's baked goods in 2010, the FDA sent out a warning letter to Butterfly Bakery in 2011, accusing them of misleading consumers. The label on their No-Sugar Added Blueberry Muffins stated that they contained 3.5 grams of total fat per serving, the FDA wrote in the letter, while an FDA analysis found that the total fat was actually 9.44 grams per serving. The fat content was also much higher than stated on the label for their 14.5-ounce four-pack of Sugar Free Double Chocolate Chip Muffins, the FDA reported, and while the product labels for both did say that they contained sodium caseinate, they did not specify that they contained milk, a well-known allergen. The serving size -- half a muffin -- was also misleading, since it should have been based on the amount a person would ordinarily eat.
According to Butterfly Bakery's marketing manager, Amy McDonald, the discrepancy in fat content had to do with the portion size. But even though the bakery corrected that more than a year ago, fans still felt betrayed after hearing about the FDA's injection against the company.
"As a diabetic, I am shocked that I have been eating your products and telling others about them," wrote Dana Brown on Facebook. "You can't trust anyone anymore. I bought your products every week, but no more. You lost a loyal customer!"
Finding out that the bakery has been working on the issue since 2011 didn't make patrons feel any better.
"Wait a minute. You have been working with the FDA since 2011? Doing what, exchanging recipes?" wrote Jim Hietala on Facebook. "You had almost two whole years to fix this problem. You cheated us. Maybe you only had 3 out of 45 products with issues because the FDA only tested 3 out of 45 products. You should go to jail for the unknown harm you caused. My wife loved your muffins, and she is diabetic. Shame on you."
Isaac, a single mom who founded Butterfly Bakery in 1987, didn't comment on her customers' reaction, but told Yahoo! Shine that her company has been hit hard. All of her "more than 60" employees have been "temporarily laid off until I can resolve this situation."
"It's a difficult situation," Isaac said. "But we're going to get through it."
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