Remember Real Housewives of New York City’s, Bethenny Frankel? Apparently, this reality TV star now has her own line of cocktail drinks called Skinnygirl. AccessHollywood reported last week that Whole Foods was pulling Frankel’s Skinnygirl Margaritas from their stores after learning that the cocktail contained a preservative. In a statement to AccessHollywood, Whole Foods said:

“After discovering that [Skinnygirl Margarita] contains a preservative that does not meet our quality standards, we have had to stop selling it.”

The Skinnygirl website does not include the ingredients in their products, but I was able to find a picture of the ingredient label on FitSugar:

WATER, BLUE AGAVE TEQUILA, AGAVE NECTAR, CITRIC ACID, NATURAL FLAVOUR, SUGAR, SODIUM BENZOATE

At first, it looks okay. 7 ingredients is a pretty low number and it is thankfully free of artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners. But….and that is a big but (no pun intended), like virtually every pre-mixed cocktail,  it does contain a preservative.  So, what’s the big deal? Here are the possible health effects from consuming sodium benzoate:

“May exacerbate asthma, hyperactive behavior (when consumed in products with certain food colorings), and cause skin rash upon contact. A study in 2007 indicated that it may cause serious cell damage associated with cirrhosis of the liver, ageing, and Parkinson’s disease. In animal studies, there are reports of possible weight gain, liver and kidney issues, and birth defects.”

Be Food Smart Sodium Benzoate Report

Sodium benzoate is found in thousands of foods and beverages and is very difficult to avoid. Frankel apparently doesn’t think it’s a big deal. Maybe she has no idea what sodium benzoate really is. Here is her response to AccessHollywood regarding the Whole Foods news:

“I’m not making wheatgrass here. If I could put an agave plant and some limes on a shelf I would. [The Skinnygirl Margarita] is as close to nature as possible, while still being a shelf stable product…With all due respect to Whole Foods, we were in a dozen of their stores and have decided not to continue in these stores. They represent an infinitesimal fraction of our business. We are, in fact, the fastest growing spirits brand in the US…We were bound to piss someone off and everyone loves to try to tear down a success. This is a non-event. I haven’t lost even a wink of sleep.”

I applaud Whole Foods for taking the product off their shelves, but why it was allowed in the first place is a bit concerning. This is a perfect example of how the term “natural” means nothing. Don’t be fooled. ALWAYS read the label yourself and make your own determination if it is “natural” or not (hint: most foods with an ingredient label aren’t really natural at all). Want a margarita? Learn to make your own. Here is one version:

High quality tequila, fresh lime juice, simple syrup (boil 2 parts local honey with 1 part water with optional mint leaves for 5 minutes until honey is completely dissolved. Cool completely before using. Store in the fridge for up to 2 weeks). Experiment with ingredients until you get the sweet/sour radio your taste buds prefer. Shake well. Wet glass rim with lime and dip into a bit of sea salt. Pour mix over ice, garnish with lime wedge,  and ahhhhh….

Image: chilebeans via Flickr
Thumbnail image: andrewwtodd via Flickr