I use I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Spray (ICINBS) on occasion. There, I said it. Now that I got that off my chest I’ll share with you how I determined this “zero-calorie” butter substitute really provides 0.45 calories per spray (1 serving).
The label says the serving size is 1 spray (0.20g) and that 5 sprays is (1g). There are 1700 sprays per bottle. For either 1 or 5 sprays the total calories listed are zero (0).
Years ago before I took the time to think about it I’d, on occasion, open the cap and pour some ICINBS into mashed potatoes. I’m not alone. Peruse the net and you’ll find stories from loads of people who do the same thing. The thinking is simple. If ICINBS has zero calories and I want a little more flavor what’s the harm – pour away!
FDA food-labeling laws state
“The ingredient list on a food label is the listing of each ingredient in descending order of predominance. Listing ingredients in descending order of predominance by weight means that the ingredient that weighs the most is listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last.”
The first four ingredients of ICINBS are: Water, soybean oil, salt and sweet cream buttermilk. Two of those four ingredients are fats (soybean oil and sweet cream buttermilk).
So what the heck is up? How does one or five sprays of a product containing some level of fat provide zero calories like the label says? As you already know by the title of this post it doesn’t provide zero calories. So how does Unilever get away with listing the calories as zero? Simple they are simply following the law.
The FDA says that if a serving provides less than 0.5 grams of fat per serving the food producer SHOULD list the fat as 0 (zero). A one-spray serving (ICINBS calls this a cooking serving) of ICINBS is 0.20g total weight. Therefore, regardless of the amount of fat ICINBS provides it’s impossible for 0.20g of spray to provide more than 0.50g of fat. Therefore, by law, they don’t even have the option to state how much fat it actually provides. The FDA says they MUST say it’s zero. What about the five-spray option. ICINBS calls this a “topping” serving. Five sprays provides a total of one gram (1g) of product. Okay, we’re at least above the 0.50g threshold but is there at least 0.5g of fat in the 1.0g serving? If so they’ll have to declare it. The answer? No. Now I’ll tell you how came up with the 0.45 calories per spray and why they still get to list the calories as zero for a five-spray “topping” serving.
I’m a fan of starting with the company’s very own website for trying to find the nutrition facts but in this case that was no help at all. The Unilever corporation, the company that produces ICINBS, sticks to their story (backed by law from the FDA) that a 5-spray serving has zero calories.
So it’s time to move on to other sites and blogs and see what we find. I tell you what that wasn’t much help either at first. Caloriecount.com has it wrong (see image).
MyFitnessPal has it wrong (see image). Hungry-girl has it wrong saying ICINBS provides 12.5 sprays is 10 calories but they were the first site listed in my Google search that said ICINBS actually provides calories.
Spark People’s site says that a one gram serving provides two grams of fat. Okay, that’s impossible and the calories are wrong as it lists 20 calories per one-gram serving (see image). In all I found a wide range of incorrect, unjustified, calorie claims.
So I dug some more and ran across a class-action lawsuit filed in April 2013 against the Unilever corporation by “KYM PARDINI, on behalf of herself and other others similarly situated.”
The opening paragraph of the lawsuit filed reads as follows:
Plaintiff Kym Pardini (“Plaintiff”) brings this putative class action in connection with Defendant Unilever United States, Inc.’s (“Defendant”) marketing of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! Spray. Plaintiff alleges that the product is deceptively marketed as having “0 fat” and “0 calories,” since it in fact contains 771 calories and 82 grams of fat per bottle.
Okay, now we’re getting somewhere.
Using the data from the lawsuit the long and short of it is simply this. “Each 340-gram container is about 24 percent fat by weight, each recommended serving of cooking spray (one spray) contains about 0.45 calories and 0.048 grams of fat, and each recommended serving of topping (five sprays) contains about 2.27 calories and 0.24 grams of fat.”
In the end I actually feel pretty good about continuing to use ICINBS. I don’t use it daily and when I do I use 5-10 sprays. That means I add less than five calories to whatever I’m adding it to. It does add some flavor and I don’t notice any adverse reactions to the amounts of this product that I use.
Don’t pour this product on your foods. It is 24 percent fat by weight. The 340g bottle is 771 calories. Use a few sprays and that’s it.
Oh, the lawsuit? It was tossed out July 9, 2013. In the end Unilever is playing by the FDA rules. Unilever has formulated a product that, because of current FDA labeling laws, must be labeled as it is — they actually have no choice.
Hopefully this puts to bed this question once and for all. That is, of course, until Unilever changes the ingredients again. I’m not a fan, at all, of frivolous lawsuits. But one good thing about these lawsuits is they keep the food manufacturers on their toes. People really ARE paying attention and we don’t take too kindly to being duped.