Fact Check

Obama Enacting Donut Sprinkles Ban?

Rumor: The Obama administration is moving to ban donut sprinkles.

Published Dec. 31, 2014


Claim:   The Obama administration is moving to ban donut sprinkles.


Example:   [Collected via e-mail, December 2014]

Is Obama banning sprinkles on donuts?

is the FDA proposing regulations on donut sprinkles. also mention is it a cause of trans fats.


Origins: In December 2014, a rumor claiming the Obama administration, President Obama himself, or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was preparing to enact a ban on donut sprinkles began to circulate. Despite a lack of elaboration on what "donut sprinkles" may or may not specifically be, the rumor spread quickly by folks concerned the government's interference in food choices was becoming far too oppressive.

The claim appeared on 22 December 2014 on the web site Breitbart, in an article puzzlingly titled "HAPPY HOLIDAYS: FDA MOVES TO BAN CAKE, DONUT 'SPRINKLES.'"

That article was actually about an FDA proposal holding that, since the agency preliminarily determined in 2013 partially hydrogenated oils (which contain trans fatty acid, also known as trans fat) are not generally recognized as safe (GRAS), partially hydrogenated oils (PHOs) should be subject to regulation as food additives, and therefore "food manufacturers would no longer be permitted to sell PHOs without prior FDA approval for use as a food additive."

The focus of that article was the decorative (and edible) sprinkle commonly used to decorate a variety of confections, a focus which has fed a form of rumor about an FDA plan to "ban donut sprinkles" which is misleading in several ways:

  • The FDA isn't proposing a "ban" on sprinkles specifically: It's proposing more stringent regulations on the sale of all food products containing artificial trans fats, regulations that would affect many different food products, of which (some types of) sprinkles are just one example.
  • Different types of sprinkles are made from different ingredients. Not all sprinkles contain PHOs, and thus not all sprinkles would be affected by the FDA's proposal.

  • Sprinkles is a generic term for candy decorations that are "sprinkled" on a number of treats, such as cakes, cupcakes, cookies, ice cream, and frozen yogurt. There's nothing unique about the sprinkles used on donuts that would cause them, and only them, to be affected by proposed FDA regulations.
  • If the FDA's proposal comes to pass, manufacturers of sprinkles containing PHOs would have the option (which a number of them have already undertaken) of switching to the use of non-hydrogenated oils rather than simply ceasing all production and sale of sprinkles.

Spread of the sprinkle concern was boosted by its inclusion in a Fox News segment aired on 30 December 2014:

Many of the same misleading claims made in the Breitbart article were repeated in that segment:

A Fox & Friends segment warned that President Barack Obama's administration was set to enact a ban on doughnut sprinkles, which meant that the government could take control of where you live and work next.

In a report that seemed to have no actual news value other than to rile up readers during the holiday season, Breitbart asserted just days before Christmas that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had moved to "ban cake" and "donut 'sprinkles'."

"Although the amount of trans fats Americans consume has declined significantly in recent years, the FDA's quest to completely eliminate a particular type of trans fat threatens to eliminate the noble 'sprinkle,' used to decorate holiday treats and donuts," the Breitbart report said. "Even a small amount of joy is suspect in the FDA's brave, new, food-monitored world."

Fox News host Clayton Morris told viewers that they would have to "say goodbye to your favorite sprinkled doughnut."

"They're getting rid of doughnuts like these," Morris explained while hold a plate of pastries. "Doesn't the FDA have more important things to do than regulate sprinkles?"


Whether or not the FDA reclassifies PHOs as subject to regulation as a food additive, the common form of the "donut sprinkles ban" rumor is false on multiple levels: Neither President Obama nor his administration are banning donut sprinkles, sprinkles made without trans fats are already widely available for purchase, and the use of PHOs is not necessary for the production, manufacture, or sale of sprinkles, donuts, cake, cupcakes, or any other similar food product:

They are not, in fact, coming after your doughnuts. Trans fats are not essential to make doughnuts or, really, anything. Some restaurants still use trans fats because, even though they're incredibly bad for you, they're longer-lasting and slightly cheaper than other oils, and very few customers would ever know the difference. But Dunkin' Donuts, Krispy Kreme, and many others have already eliminated trans fats, and customers have detected no difference in taste.


Last updated:   18 May 2015

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.