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Say It Ain't So, Ben0 & Jerry The Name Game


Up Front: ANNUAL CONFESSIONS

SAY IT AIN'T SO, BEN0 & JERRY THE NAME GAME

Ben & Jerry's Homemade, that socially conscious ice- cream purveyor, has a confession: Not all its much-ballyhooed "all-natural" ingredients have been natural. We're talking sulfur dioxide preservative in its Cherry Garcia flavor. And other flavors with artificial vanilla, margarine, or nonhydrogenated vegetable oil.

This was the scoop in the Waterbury (Vt.) outfit's just-issued annual report. The reports have become quirky forums for mea culpas in a section done by an outside consultant. This one reveals that the company may have knowingly used "dried-out" dough in some batches of its best-selling flavor, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Plus, it says, staffers widely criticize a "lack of leadership."

The company, started by two hippie entrepreneurs, says it had thought the all-natural claim was correct. Then, new FDA rules forced it to ask suppliers of mixed-in ingredients--the chunky stuff--what they used. Since learning the shocking truth, the company says, it has taken out the sulfur dioxide and the artificial vanilla and is testing to see if consumers will like butter instead of margarine and the like. A spokesman says Ben & Jerry's has removed the all-natural claim from flavors that don't measure up.EDITED BY LARRY LIGHT AND JULIE TILSNER Mark Maremont


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