swiss missI don’t think ConAgra Foods intended any irony in its message on boxes of Swiss Miss hot cocoa mix.

With photos of a dairy cow, a bottle of milk and a smiling farmer, the package states: “Al Shepley is on  mission to make sure people know what’s in Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa… ‘When they open the package, I don’t think people know what’s actually in there,’ he says.”

swiss miss ingredientsSo true. Taken in by the cow and bottled milk and smiling Al, I never gave a thought to what was in the cocoa mix I was giving to my kids, until we started taking a closer look at the labels. We found not only corn syrup, which is ubiquitous in almost every processed food, but also added to the Swiss Miss Classics Hot Cocoa mix is sucralose, an artificial sweetener used under brand names such as Splenda and another artificial sweetener called acesulfame potassium.

For many Americans, especially those who drink diet pop, sucralose is a part of their daily lives. I’m not one of those people. Or, I hope to not be. While sucralose has been found to be safe in some studies, other research suggests there are dangers.

In any case, when a product has no indication on its labeling that it’s low-calorie – generally a clue to look for ingredients like sucralose – you might not suspect what it contains, unless you take a closer swiss miss

Interestingly, Swiss Miss recently came out with a new “Simply Cocoa” formula that touts no artificial flavors, no artificial colors and no preservatives. Al Shepley isn’t on the package. Neither is his cow.

I’m not sure if sucralose is on the agenda at this upcoming meeting from the Johnson County Green Team and Wellness Program, but it looks like a timely topic.

Here is more about the event, happening on Jan. 14, 2015:

Organic? Natural? Grass-fed? Grass-finished? These food labels and others leave many consumers with more questions.

“Making Sense of Food Label Claims,” a free talk open to the public, will be held from 12:10 to 12:55 p.m. Wednesday, January 14, in room 214B-C of the Johnson County Health and Human Services Building. The facility is located at 855 South Dubuque Street in Iowa City.

The speaker will be Kathy Mellen, a registered and licensed dietitian, and a researcher and lecturer in health and human physiology at the University of Iowa. Mellen, who holds a doctoral degree in nutrition epidemiology, also is a certified specialist in sports dietetics.

Participants are welcome to bring their own lunch to eat at the event; fruit and cheese will be provided. Pre-registration is encouraged but not required. Pre-register online at or contact the Green Team at or 319-356-6083.

Participants may park vehicles in the open air public lot to the north of the HHS building. Bicycle parking is available in the first-floor HHS parking ramp.

The event is co-sponsored by the Johnson County Green Team and Wellness Program, internal committees established by the county’s Board of Supervisors.

The Johnson County Green Team helps make county operations more sustainable and provides educational events for employees and the general public. The mission of the Johnson County Wellness Program is to invest in and foster a workplace culture that supports a healthy lifestyle for employees, their families and the community.