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Breakstone's Reduced Fat Sour Cream
Seeking more tang for your buck

December 13, 2006

Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of oil and light, is the season for eating latkes, golden fried potato pancakes -- usually accompanied by sour cream. Today, calorie and cholesterol-conscious consumers have a bewildering assortment of products. Last week's trip to the Brighton Shaw's and Stop & Shop turned up 14 different types in one and 11 in the other, packaged in three sizes. We set out to see if the light varieties are adequate substitutes for the regular products.

By government standards, a cow's milk product labeled "sour cream" is supposed to contain not less than 18 percent fat (the cream part) and not less than .5 percent lactic acidity (the sour). Requirements for "reduced" are 25 percent less fat; "light" is 50 percent less, "low" is two-thirds less, and "no-fat" has none. To meet consumer sensory expectations for thickness, creaminess, taste, and appearance, manufacturers selectively add very small quantities of thickeners to restore and improve texture lost in fat reduction. Alas, many of the sour creams were flavorless, others too thick to pour, some too sweet. The latkes proved the great equalizer. The potato and onion overwhelmed all the negative factors in the sour creams. Eaten in very small quantities, with crisp latkes, any will do. -- ELLEN MESSER

NOTE: Seven people participated .

(Wendy Maeda)
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