Chemistry: FAIL

I’m good with “carbon neutral.” No problems with “no greenhouse gases were emitted in the production of this product.” But there’s a small problem with the following image (taken by my wife at a local natural grocer). I’ll give you a hint – the chemical formula for sucrose, aka sugar, is C12H22O11:


Take the carbon out of sugar and you’re pretty much left with water. Methinks Someone failed their chemistry class. Or their marketing class. Or both.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit parched – time to have a tall glass of certified carbon free sugar.

38 replies »

  1. LOL. Look ma, no carbon!

    Granted, sugar cane is a pretty environmentally friendly crop (unless you clear cut thousands of acres of rainforest to grow it) because it generally doesn’t need tilling and outcompetes weeds. I have no idea how Florida growers harvest, or even if it can be harvested mechanically. The labor, however, is pretty nasty as far as labor goes…even agricultural labor.

    I’d wonder about working conditions at a sugar farm more than anything else, and the track record of Florida produce farms on that count is not always very good…i think of the slavery stories from the tomato industry.

  2. You forget to “see the back for details” – maybe it’s also magic sugar, made by elves or something…

  3. It’s the dark matter version of sugar. I’m surprised she could get close enough to shoot this photo.

  4. I realize it’s a certification, but it’s still absurd. On this planet, life is carbon-based (thus the original use of the term “organic,” as in “organic chemistry”), and so molecules created by life are nearly all carbon-based as well. Sugar is such a molecule, so calling it “carbon free” is a misnomer.

    It’s like calling a tree “carbon free.” That would mean it was what, silicon based?

  5. Hmmm, now there’s a thought: selling dehydrated carbon-free sugar at the S&R store…sounds like a winner to me. 😉

  6. I dunno about the economics of the sugar industry, but I do remember that they burn the entire sugar cane field every year prior to harvest. That’s how they did it in Hawaii, anyway. Ash would fall outta the sky all over the island for days. I could only imagine what it’s like harvesting stuff in that sort of environment.

  7. Does that mean that if you start with carbon and then add water, you’ll get sugar? Now there’s a marketing opportunity.

  8. Florida Crystals® products are the very first sugar products to be certified CarbonFree® by This label indicates a product’s carbon footprint was rendered neutral through greenhouse gas cutting measures.

    What is CarbonFree®?
    Florida Crystals® Organic and Natural sugars earned’s CarbonFree® certification after a rigorous life cycle assessment (LCA) performed by Europe’s premier carbon management consultants, Edinburg Center for Carbon Management (ECCM).

    ECCM determined each product’s complete carbon footprint by assessing the primary inputs of planting and growing the sugar cane, through the harvesting, milling and packaging processes, to the product’s final delivery to store shelves. The CarbonFree® label indicates each product’s carbon footprint was rendered neutral through greenhouse gas cutting measures, specifically, through Florida Crystals’ production of renewable energy.

    • The fault lies as much if not more with as with the sugar manufacturer (and as Terry pointed out above, Florida Crystals products are hardly alone in this particular absurdity).

      “Carbon-free” is a meaningless phrase in this case, as with most cases. “Carbon neutral,” however, would actually mean something.

  9. This post is stupid and uninformed, that certification talks about the manufacturing process, not the actual composition of the product… It’s not a fail at all… also, CarbonFree is just a brand, just like Apple… Apple is then a meaningless phrase? No, is just a brand…
    Read before making fun of everybody else…
    Brian Angliss fail!

  10. That’s almost as bad as “chemical free.” XD

    @Andre: Apparently, brand names are Serious Business. XP

  11. Ha! This is doubly funny as it is both carbonfree and organic. Organic as was pointed out means carbon based. In chemistry terms, all sugar is organic. Even saccharine is organic. Great find. It is odd how our society doesn’t question these terms “ORganic” must mean its good for you. Its some classic stuff. I want to produce Cyanide tablets and market them as Organic (for they are).

  12. Why has no one else questioned your ability to understand chemistry? H22O11 is nowhere similar H2O. Okay so besides that, “carbon free” has nothing to do with removing the bond between the carbon and oxygen. It just means that they have a “neutral carbon footprint” if you buy into all that crap.

    • I was looking for someone to say that. If we remember the Daltons atomic theory, we know that the law of definite proportions states that two or more elements combined in a certain definite proportion & in no other combination will give you A compound. Meaning that the only way you’ll attain water is with 2 Hydrogens & 1 Oxygen. There is NO other way. The only chemistry fail I see here is yours.

  13. @Andre Sckeron, and confused.
    Umm, this is a joke. Take it as such. All marketing sucks to begin with. They prey on the popular fads to sell a product. There is no such thing as carbon neutral. Our mere existence produces carbon emissions, not to mention the trucks required to haul the product to and from. Anyway, funny and good post, keep it up…

  14. Regardless of whether it has some other meaning or the chemistry is wrong, it still says “Carbon-Free Sugar” when sugar is made from carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen, and thus is funny.

  15. This is great. Too bad about all the shining path granola eaters giving you flak for calling out a nonsensical statement.

    @ confused: If you do a MO or VB calculation you’ll get the joke.

  16. @ titoq: granola tastes great, lowers your cholesterol and prevents colon cancer. And we get the joke.

  17. I saw this today in a grocery store, and I thought thought the same thing. Sure, I get what they are trying to say, but it’s still a lot like “fat free sour cream” to me.

  18. wow what an ingenious racket that carbonfree is! all they do is get people to pay them to use their stupid logo after a self-determination of “carbon neutralality” and people buy into that crap! LOL wish I’d thought of it.