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Friday, November 07, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

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Baker's Breakfast Cookies' higher calories count to FDA

By Jake Batsell
Seattle Times business reporter

Shown here is Baker's Breakfast Cookie's old label. The revised label lists higher calorie counts.
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Baker's Breakfast Cookie samples collected by the Food and Drug Administration in June contained more calories, fat and carbohydrates than their labels claimed, the agency says.

In a letter sent late last week to company founder Erin Baker-Geschwill, regulators said lab tests showed that each of the three cookies tested had around 100 more calories than listed on their labels.

Calorie counts for the samples — taken two months before Baker's unveiled a new packaging format and revamped nutritional data — ranged from 35 to 48 percent higher than the amounts listed.

For instance, the sample of Baker's Double Chocolate Chunk cookie came in at 369 calories, 48 percent higher than the 250 calories listed on its label. The FDA allows a 20 percent margin of error for nutritional information.

Baker's cookies have a strong local following and are popular nationally with Weight Watchers members and triathletes. Earlier this year, the fast-growing Bellingham company expanded its East Coast distribution.

The FDA test results were consistent with those of an earlier lab analysis for The Seattle Times. The FDA gathered samples June 12, three days after The Times published its analysis, but it took several months for the agency to complete its tests.

Cookie calories


In August, Baker's Breakfast Cookie revised the nutritional data on its cookie labels, increasing calorie, fat and carbohydrate totals. Data below is for one cookie.

Fruit and Nut (old label): 98 grams, 5 grams fat, 54 carbohydrates, 270 calories
Fruit and Nut (new label): 99 grams, 6.5 grams fat, 60 carbohydrates, 312 calories
Double Chocolate Chunk (old label): 98 grams, 5 grams fat, 50 carbohydrates, 250 calories
Double Chocolate Chunk (new label): 99 grams, 6 grams fat, 58 carbohydrates, 314 calories
Banana Walnut (old label): 98 grams, 6 grams fat, 52 carbohydrates, 274 calories
Banana Walnut (new label): 99 grams, 7 grams fat, 59 carbohydrates, 309 calories

In August, Baker's revised its labels, listing calorie counts roughly 15 to 20 percent higher than previous totals. Baker's co-president Bryan Geschwill said the company has replaced outdated equipment that produced inconsistent weights and mixes.

Plans to change the equipment, packaging and nutritional data were in place before The Times published its June article, Geschwill said.

Geschwill has said the nutritional discrepancies were part of a "long learning curve" for the 8-year-old company.

"The success that we've been fortunate enough to experience at every level has given us new puzzles," he said yesterday.

Russell Gripp, director of compliance for the FDA's Seattle district, said the Oct. 31 letter to Baker's falls short of an official warning letter and that any further action will depend on the company's response.

"Since they've changed the label, we decided it was more important to get the information to them and see how they respond," Gripp said.

Geschwill said Baker's is preparing a response that will show it's "now in compliance."

Nutritional mislabeling can be troublesome for calorie-counting dieters and for diabetics who base their insulin doses on their carbohydrate intake.

The FDA letter also faulted Baker's for listing nutritional data on old labels as one serving, when each cookie was two servings. With the new labels, one cookie equals one serving.

Jake Batsell: 206-464-2718 or jbatsell@seattletimes.com


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