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Is That Right? French's mustard shares just one ingredient with mayo, ketchup?

The interactive graphic allowing consumers to compare French's yellow mustard with fellow condiments mayonnaise and ketchup would be kind of cool -- if it weren't so misleading.

French's really shouldn't have to work too hard to establish that's it's pretty healthful, as far as sandwich-toppers go. After all, it's extremely low in calories -- zero per teaspoon, according to the label -- and has no fat.

But the graphic insists on stacking the mustard up against mayonnaise and ketchup by allowing viewers to peek at captioned pictures of the ingredients each condiment contains. After noting that the mustard seeds in mustard are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, that a 32-ounce jar of regular mayonnaise contains 3 cups of oil and that 32 ounces of ketchup has 60 tablespoons of sugar, the graphic shows a bottle of vinegar accompanied by the statement "Next to water, this is about all mustard has in common with ketchup and mayonnaise."

Not exactly. The three condiments in fact share another common ingredient: sodium.

If sodium content were the criterion by which condiments were judged, mayonnaise would be the clear winner, with 90 milligrams per tablespoon. Ketchup, with 190 mg per tablespoon, fares the worst. But French's yellow mustard isn't far behind. Its label lists 55 mg -- per teaspoon. For comparison's sake, that equals 165 mg per tablespoon.

While there's some controversy as to how much sodium we should allow in our daily diets, most experts agree we're all consuming more than we need, probably to the detriment of our blood pressure and kidneys.

I'm not saying we should all avoid French's for its sodium content. But so pointedly omitting sodium in the compare-the-products game is disingenuous at best.

Nor do I think it's quite right to invoke those omega-3s. While mustard seeds are indeed good sources of omega-3 fatty acids, those heart-healthy fats don't figure in mustard's nutrition profile, and they aren't mentioned anywhere on the packaging. French's should either claim them or not; dropping hints feels like a cheap shot.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  October 23, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right? , Nutrition and Fitness  
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French's may indeed be trying a little too hard (and they do indeed need to lose the sodium -- other mustards taste fine without *any* added salt), but they're doing the world a favor by pointing out that mayo is basically flavored fat, and ketchup is basically flavored sugar.

We'd all be *much* better off if we followed the ad's advice and dumped the mayo and ketchup in favor of mustard -- the mayo alone can account for *most* of the fat in a sandwich in many cases.

But you're right: when picking a mustard, maybe the gratuitous-sodium-laden French's brand isn't the best choice.

Posted by: DupontJay | October 23, 2009 11:25 AM | Report abuse

You're coming down a little too hard on French's.

Regarding sodium: most people don't track their intake, so it doesn't matter much. And I bet if you measured volumes, a real-world serving size of mayonnaise is larger than mustard's. But you're right: they should have compared equal volumes.

By the way, 28 g of standard mustard has 173 mg omega-3 fatty acids. 28 g of farm-raised rainbow trout has 276 mg. But that's like comparing apples and duct tape.

-Steve Parker, M.D.

Posted by: SteveParkerMD | October 23, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

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