Posted by Linda Bonvie
April 17, 2012
Food Identity Theft, April 17, 2012 — Food shopping would sure be a lot easier if what a product was called somehow matched what it actually contained. But “real” ingredients cost more, and thanks to loopholes and lax regulations in food labeling, it’s easy to be fooled into thinking we’re buying something we’re not.
The only way to really know what’s inside the package is to read the ingredient label. So bypass the pretty picture, flip the item over, and find out for yourself “what’s in a name” – a genuine product description or simply a marketing ploy, such as the ones that follow:
1. Snapple Apple: It’s really neat how “Snapple” rhymes with “apple,” but that’s about where the association with the crunchy fruit ends. Despite the pretty apple on the label, Snapple Apple contains not a hint of actual apples. How can this be, you ask? Well, “juice drinks,” as reported by The Consumerist, are not required to have the bottle contents match label pictures, or the name, for that matter. In fact, juice drinks can contain as little as 5 percent actual juice. Snapple Apple, according to its label information, uses just 10 percent juice – pear juice at that – along with “natural” flavors” to achieve its “appley” flavor. (Apparently, however, Snapple has perfected this ersatz-apple formula, as reviews on Amazon.com talk about it tasting like “taking a bite out of an actual juicy apple!” and more like “Fuji” apples than “regular apple juice.”)
Oh, and one more thing – if you’re looking for genuine juice from the named fruit, steer clear of anything called a “juice drink.”
2. Capri Sun Mountain Cooler mixed fruit: This is another glaring example of why you can’t select products based on the packaging. While the box announces it has “no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives” and shows an athletic figure biking out of a scene filled with delicious fruit, this particular “juice drink” is really little more than water and high fructose corn syrup (the first two ingredients) with a bit of apple juice concentrate thrown in to justify using the word “fruit.”
3. Grape-Nuts: Since Grape-Nuts has been around a very long time – introduced in 1898 by Charles W. Post – you might say that its disingenuous name is probably “grandfathered” in by this time, since the cereal contains neither grapes nor nuts. So what is it, then? The main ingredient in Grape-Nuts is whole grain wheat flour and barley which is baked into giant blocks that are ground into the familiar hard, gravel-like cereal. Exactly how Grape-Nuts got its name is still a mystery, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. “Maltose is the only sugar in Grape Nuts,” the article notes. “Mr. Post may have called it grape sugar, or thought Grape Nuts looked like grape seeds, or that grape seeds looked like nuts, or that malted barley tasted nutty. Nobody seems to know.”
4. Special K Strawberry Cereal Bars: With luscious strawberries pictured on the package and advertising copy claiming “these strawberry flavored cereal bars are made to satisfy with rice and whole grain wheat flakes, sweet strawberries, and oh-so-yummy icing,” you would think there would be at least a hint of actual strawberries inside. But no, what constitutes “strawberries” in these bars is actually made from cranberries, along with “natural strawberry flavor and other natural flavors.” Also laced with such additives as partially hydrogenated oil, artificial flavors and BHT, this is not exactly one of “the secret weapons” (as the ad copy puts it) you need “when you’re on a mission to look and feel great.”
5. Hungry Jack Blueberry Wheat Pancake Mix: A super-antioxidant, blueberries are something that are increasingly in demand. Food manufacturers also love blueberries, and seem to slap the name all over products that don’t contain any. Of all the fake foods I’ve reported on, the lion’s share appear to be ones with “blueberry” in the name (with strawberries coming in a close second). This product is another example of a bogus blueberry food, with “artificial blueberry bits” comprised of corn flour, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial flavors and colors. Of course to find that out, you need to read the ingredient list, rather than just being taken in by the appetizing-looking blueberry pancakes pictured on the front of the package.
6. Del Monte Seafood Cocktail Sauce made from California Vine-Ripened Tomatoes: This product, which actually uses reconstituted tomato concentrate, is not the “vine-ripened” vision it appears to be. Last April the National Consumers League sent a letter to the FDA saying that claims such as these are “false and misleading.” If you want to buy a sauce made from fresh tomatoes rather than processed tomato paste, look for “tomatoes” as the first ingredient, not tomato puree or water and tomato paste.
Remember, when it comes to a processed food product or beverage, the name, along with the packaging, descriptive copy and graphics, was most likely created by an ad agency to entice you into buying that item. But the name and image given to a product no more tells you what it really contains than a person’s name and style of dress reveals his or her true character.