Despite Best Efforts, Doughnut Makers Must Fry, Fry Again
Robert Ligon, a 68-year-old health-food executive, is scheduled to begin serving 15 months in a federal prison Tuesday. His crime: willfully mislabeling doughnuts as low-fat.
Exhibit A: The label on his company's "carob coated" doughnut said it had three grams of fat and 135 calories. But an analysis by the Food and Drug Administration showed that the doughnut, glazed with chocolate, contained a sinfully indulgent 18 grams of fat and 530 calories.
Mr. Ligon's three-year-long nationwide doughnut caper -- which involved selling mislabeled doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and cookies to diet centers -- began to crumble when customers complained to the FDA about how tasty his products were.
"If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," says Jim Dahl, assistant director of the Office of Criminal Investigation for the FDA. The skinny on low-fat doughnuts, he says: "Science can do a lot of things, but we're not quite there yet."
The low-fat doughnut is the Holy Grail of the food industry. Food companies have been able to take most of the fat out of everything from cheese to Twinkies. But no one has succeeded in designing a marketable doughnut that dips below the federal low-fat threshold of three grams per serving. Doughnuts typically range from eight grams of fat for a glazed French cruller to more than double that for a cake-like doughnut.
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