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December 23, 2013

McCormick Black Pepper — An Important Source of Antioxidants?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:12 am

NOTE: The next new Mouse Print* story will be published on Monday, January 6, 2014 (our trusty mouse needs time off to hunt for his annual supply of dairy-free cheese substitute since unfortunately he is lactose intolerant).



McCormick ran a series of commercials touting the health benefits of its spices. (We reported on their health claims for cinnamon a while back here.)

One commercial proclaims, using words to the effect that “sprinkling black pepper on scambled eggs is an important source of antioxidants”.

Looking on their website, the claim is even made more specific:

Wow, more antioxidants than a 1/2 cup serving of watermelon. Not so fast.

According to the FDA, watermelon is not one of those fruits particularly dense with vitamin C (a key antioxidant).

*MOUSE PRINT:

A serving size is defined as two cups, and contains 25% of the daily requirement of vitamin C. If you wanted to get the equivalent boost of vitamin C from black pepper, you would have to sprinkle about a full teaspoon of pepper on your eggs. Ha choooooo. The recommended 1/4 teaspoon that McCormick suggests that you sprinkle on eggs will only provide you with 6.25% of your daily requirement of vitamin C according to them. Hardly something to boast about as a boost of antioxidants. As noted in the comments (thanks, Leeann), there are other antioxidants in watermelon too, but they are in very small amounts.

*MOUSE PRINT:

NutritionData.com suggests that even a full teaspoon of black pepper is not particularly nutrient-rich (but not all nutrients are listed on nutrition facts labels).

black pepper

In an interview with Ad Age, the company explained their advertising campaign:

The goal is to reach “people who maybe weren’t superinvolved cooks … but were still interested in healthy eating,” said Jill Pratt, VP-marketing for consumer products. The company looked at some common meals “and found a way to make them a little bit healthier by amping up the antioxidants in them,” she said.

No matter how you spin it, black pepper is NOT an important source of antioxidants in your diet based on the amount of pepper you might actually use to spice up an individual serving.

• • •

9 Comments

  1. Perhaps McCormick should just stick to advertising how much flavor their seasonings add to food. Advertising the extremely minor health benefits of spices is crossing a line.

    Comment by Wayne R — December 23, 2013 @ 9:29 am
  2. And don’t forget these spices are irradiated – effectively making them a dead food.

    Comment by Willow — December 23, 2013 @ 11:44 am
  3. They never said ‘Vitamin C” did they? There are many different antioxidants that are present in the peppercorn. Try an internet search, you’d be surprised what you can learn.

    Edgar replies: Leeann, they make the claim about antioxidants comparing it to watermelon. The only antioxidant in watermelon is vitamin C. So yes, they are in this instance referring to vitamin c.

    Comment by Leeann — December 23, 2013 @ 3:00 pm
  4. Plus:

    “While a large amount of commercial spices are irradiated today, McCormick & Co. is one major seller of retail spices that does not use irradiation on any of its consumer products. According to a 2010 article in CIDRAP, Laurie Harrsen, a company spokeswoman said that McCormick’s uses steam sterilization and has no plans of irradiation, due to the belief of insufficient consumer acceptance of the process. The company does, however, use irradiation if specifically asked to do so by an industrial food customer.”
    Quote from http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/07/is-food-irradiation-the-future-part-ii/#.UriWbvRDuSo

    Comment by Leeann — December 23, 2013 @ 3:02 pm
  5. In reply to Edgar above: Watermelon does have other antioxidants, including lycopene. So your logic is flawed. The total amount of antioxidants in peppercorns is comparable to watermelon as stated by McCormick.

    Edgar replies: I stand corrected, Leeann. Watermelon does contain lycopene (not listed on the nutrition facts label). According to the USDA, one and half cups of watermelon contains between 9-13 milligrams of lycopene. The McCormick ad uses a serving size comparison of one half cup of watermelon. So that portion would have only between 3 and 4 milligrams of lycopene. That minuscule amount barely nudges up the antioxidant content of 1/4 of a teaspoon of black pepper. The point is McCormick is giving consumers a false sense of the beneficial value and benefit of a few shakes of pepper, not that their equivalency claim was wrong.

    Comment by Leeann — December 23, 2013 @ 6:54 pm
  6. >>Edgar replies: Leeann, they make the claim about antioxidants comparing it to watermelon. The only antioxidant in watermelon is vitamin C. So yes, they are in this instance referring to vitamin c.<<

    Actually, Vit. A is also an antioxidant.

    Edgar replies: Patrick, thanks for pointing that out. The problem remains, as the post states at the end, the normal portion of black pepper usage — a couple of shakes (or even 1/4 teaspoon) — is so small and insignificant, that even if it was the most powerful antioxidant on earth (it is in the top 50), this tiny amount is going to make little difference in your nutrition. Think of this analogy: a new suntan lotion claims to be the ultimate protection for sunburn because it contains the most protective ingredient ever invented. But, if you use only one drop on your knee, it will do little to protect you overall from sunburn.

    Comment by Patrick — December 24, 2013 @ 11:47 am
  7. “Edgar replies: Patrick, thanks for pointing that out. The problem remains, as the post states at the end, the normal portion of black pepper usage — a couple of shakes (or even 1/4 teaspoon) — is so small and insignificant, that even if it was the most powerful antioxidant on earth (it is in the top 50), this tiny amount is going to make little difference in your nutrition.”

    Edgar, continuing to defend your boo boo is making you look silly especially when continuing with assuming that people are too stupid to know what ‘serving sizes’ are and don’t have the ability to figure out that a measly amount of pepper (which does indeed include an important source of antioxidants) is not going to come anywhere near their daily needed nutritional intake … Anyway, not trying to beat you up; just pointing out that even the best investigator should stand back sometimes before inserting both feet in mouth via attempting self defense ;-) I sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas and a safe and happy New year :-)

    Comment by Deeli — December 25, 2013 @ 8:50 am
  8. I never thought about pepper as a source of much of anything besides flavor. Knowing that there is some actual good in it is worthwhile. However, I do think that their claim bloats the facts (about antioxidants) to make them appear more important than they are.

    Comment by RobS — December 30, 2013 @ 2:06 pm
  9. Isn’t it possible that McCormick adds something to their formula that is not present in generic black pepper?

    Comment by BZ — December 30, 2013 @ 3:48 pm

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