Massachusetts State Senator Jarrett Barrios had threatened to enact legislation banning (or at least “severely limiting”) the serving of Fluffernutter sandwiches in school cafeteria. This story has been all over the news, reported first locally by the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald, and more recently almost everywhere. (A Google News search today yields 436 hits.)
To non-New Englanders the Fluffernutter sandwich may seem to be an unpalatable oddity. But is it, nutritionally speaking, “out of the mainstream”?
The Fluffernutter sandwich is made with peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff®. To determine whether the Fluffernutter sandwich is the dietary demon Barrios and some others say it is, we compared its nutritional content other products that have been used for generations with peanut butter: jelly, jam and honey.
We compared Welch’s® Concord Grape Jelly, Smuckers® Strawberry Jam, and Sue Bee® Clover Honey because they are national brands, not to pick on them. There is no reason to believe that the amount of sugar in jellies, jams and honey varies much by brand. And to be clear, none of these products is promoted as health food.
What we discovered is that if the serving size is kept constant at 1 tablespoon, Marshmallow Fluff® has about half the sugar and calories of the other peanut butter sandwich add-ons. It takes about twice as much Fluff by volume to get the same amount of sugar and calories.
|Grams of Sugar
|Welch’s® Concord Grape Jelly||50||13|
|Smuckers® Strawberry Jam||50||12|
|Sue Bee® Clover Honey||60||16|
It’s possible that Fluffernutter eaters use twice as much Fluff as jelly- and jam-eaters use jelly or jam to make a sandwich. And we didn’t control for differences in sugar content of peanut butter. (Most national brands have added sugar and vegetable oil, even if Neutral Source’s favorite does not.)
But what comes through clearly from this comparison is that opposition to the Fluffernutter sandwich is based on dietary ignorance, if not outright prejudice.
And although Barrios has not recanted, he has backed down. Today, CBS News Boston affiliate is reporting that Barrios has dropped his legislative crusade against the Fluffernutter.
Colin Durrant, a spokesman for Barrios, said the entire issue simply got out of control.
“It got to the point where the larger story overshadowed or obscured his original goal, which was to have a discussion about what is a healthy and nutritious meal for kids in school,” Durrant said Tuesday.
Despite his spokesman’s verbal confusion, we think Barrios meant the “larger story” is that kids should be served nutritious school lunches, and that Fluffernutter sandwiches just don’t qualify. But it’s hard to see how peanut butter and jelly sandwiches would be okay if Fluffernutters aren’t. Barrios’ logic requires that peanut butter and jelly sandwiches also be banned from school cafeterias.
Barrios encountered spirited opposition to his proposal to ban Marshmallow Fluff®. One can only imagine the reaction he’d get to a bill that would ban jelly, jam and honey from schools as well.