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August 21, 2017

Pret a Manger Accused of Deceptive Sandwich Packaging

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:07 am

MrConsumer had occasion to eat at what he considers an expensive regional European sandwich shop last March called Pret a Manger. He discovered something sneaky about how they packaged their sandwich wraps.

Pret Bang Bang Chicken

Upon opening the package, one gets an unexpected surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Pret revealed

What looked like a long wrap sandwich, potentially worth the $7.49 price, turns out to be two small halves that come nowhere close to filling the package. The “Lovingly Made” cardboard surrounding the middle of the sandwich hides the dirty little secret of the empty space between the two halves. I thought to myself — great — I have a good Mouse Print* story.

As we have discussed in the past, deceptive packaging can be illegal, particularly when there is nonfunctional empty space in the package. That’s called slack fill, and it tends to give consumers a misimpression about the actual contents of the package. It makes the consumer think there is more product inside than there really is.

Fast forward to this summer when a New York consumer purchased a different wrap at Pret and got snookered too. He thought to himself — great — and he filed a class action lawsuit a few weeks ago against the company claiming millions of dollars of losses suffered by purchasers of these kinds of wraps. His lawsuit claims that depending on the sandwich there can be up to two-and-a-half inches of empty space between the two halves. (See story in Gothamist.)

So we asked Pret about their reaction to the lawsuit and why they package their wraps in this deceptive manner. They did not respond.




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August 7, 2017

Here We Downsize Again – 2017 (Part 2)

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:43 am

Like death and taxes, you can count on manufacturers to continue to shrink their products.

Mouse Print* reader Jack B. recently caught a change in Trident chewing gum.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Trident

Each package lost four sticks of gum, but each of the new sticks is slightly larger. The old sticks are 1.7 grams and the new ones are 1.9 grams:

stick size

However, with a product like chewing gum, it is the number of servings that matters, and each package now has four fewer servings.


 
Wishbone salad dressing recently came out with a new bottle, nearly identical to the old one.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Wishbone dressing

As reader Jim H. wrote, apparently people were weary of hauling around the old, heavier bottles that had a full 16 ounces in them.


 
Remember when the standard size for a container of yogurt was eight ounces? That is long gone, with those dairy cups going down to six ounces years and years ago. But it has not stopped there. More recently, major brands have downsized again — this time to 5.3 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Dannon

Three or four spoonfuls and you’re done. No wonder you’re still hungry.


 
Faithful reader and contributor Richard G. tipped us off about Febreze air and fabric freshener recently being downsized.

Febreze

Their spray bottles lost almost a full ounce. But I guess even if we make a big stink about, Febreze will just cover it up.


 
And in the never ending saga of the incredible shrinking toilet paper roll, Charmin is once again lopping off more sheets from each roll.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Charmin

This time the double rolls went from 154 sheets down to only 142 sheets — or the equivalent of just 71 sheets on a regular roll. Just as a reminder, the original Charmin 40+ years ago had 600 or 650 single-ply sheets on a regular roll. Mr. Whipple is turning over in his grave.

Thanks to Richard G. for the tip, and we welcome you to submit your finds as well to Edgar(at symbol)ConsumerWorld.org .




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July 17, 2017

Now Here’s a Juicy Story…

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:36 am

There’s an old joke about how cheap chicken soup is actually made. They merely dunk a whole chicken in a pot of water, then immediately remove it and dunk it into the next pot. That’s the feeling we get with Juicy Juice’s 100% juice called Orange Tangerine.

Daniel T. wrote to Mouse Print* saying that he was looking to buy tangerine juice, but the closest he could find was this product:

Juicy Juice

Like any good consumer (who reads Consumer World or Mouse Print*), he checked the ingredients statement and got quite a surprise.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Juicy Juice ingredients

Rather than find orange juice and tangerine juice at the top of the list, he found three other juices comprised a majority of the juices in the bottle: apple, pear, and grape.

So how much actual orange juice and tangerine juice is in the product? We asked the manufacturer, Harvest Hill Beverage Company, which did not respond.

It turns out that the FDA has specific rules about juices where the product name and/or depiction of the fruit shown is not the primary ingredient.

*MOUSE PRINT:

(d) In a diluted multiple-juice beverage or blend of single-strength juices where one or more, but not all, of the juices are named on the label other than in the ingredient statement, and where the named juice is not the predominant juice, the common or usual name for the product shall:

(1) Indicate that the named juice is present as a flavor or flavoring (e.g., “Raspcranberry”; raspberry and cranberry flavored juice drink); or

(2) Include the amount of the named juice, declared in a 5- percent range

In plain English this says that in this case the maker cannot call this product “Orange Tangerine” because they are not the main ingredients, other juices are. The company would have to call it “Orange Tangerine flavored juice” or specifically declare the percentages of orange juice and tangerine juice in the bottle.

What the manufacturer did instead is include a fine print disclosure at the bottom of the front label:

*MOUSE PRINT:

Juicy Juice disclosure

Does that hard to read disclosure meet the requirements of the law? Not in our view, because it was not incorporated into the product name which simply is “Orange Tangerine.” And because “Orange Tangerine” is in close proximity to the words “100% juice,” consumers are likely to believe the bottle only contains orange and tangerine juice.

As it turns out, we are not the only ones to come to this conclusion. Back in 2009, the Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to Nestle, the company that manufactured Juicy Juice at the time, making that very point and calling the product “misbranded” as a result:

Additionally, we have reviewed the labeling of your Nestle Juicy Juice All Natural 100% Juice Orange Tangerine and Nestle Juicy Juice All Natural 100% Juice Grape products. These products are misbranded under section 403(a)(1) of the Act [21 USC 343(a)(1)] because their labels are misleading. The label of the Orange Tangerine product is designed to imply that the product is 100% orange/tangerine juice, and the label of the Grape product is designed to imply that product is 100% grape juice. The principal display panels identify the products as “Orange Tangerine” and “Grape,” respectively, in large, bold lettering outlined in black; however, neither orange/tangerine juice nor grape juice is the predominant juice in the products.The statements “All Natural-100% Juice” in close proximity to the words “Orange Tangerine”or “Grape” and vignettes of oranges or grapes also may lead consumers to believe that the products are 100% orange/tangerine juice or 100% grape juice when, in fact, they are not. The separate statement at the base of the respective principal display panels, “Flavored juice blend from concentrate with other natural flavors & added ingredients,” appears in a smaller font and white print on a colored background. The manner in which the latter statement is presented makes it less conspicuous and prominent than the other label statements and vignettes and therefore less likely to be read or understood by consumers at the time of purchase.

We don’t know the result of the warning letter, and the current owners of Juicy Juice (Harvest Hill Beverage Company) did not respond to our two inquiries concerning the labeling issue. We do know that the labeling has not changed much since 2009.




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July 3, 2017

Toilet Paper Roll Claims Roil

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:10 am

Have you made a trip down the toilet paper aisle recently? MrConsumer did last week at Target. There were 11 different size packages of just one variety of Charmin (Ultra Soft) on display.

Charmin Ultra Soft

The big bold numbers on them made little sense. One said “12 = 27” but another said “12 = 54.” One said “18 = 72” but another nearby package proclaimed that “18 = 82.” One package declared that “8 = 36” but at Stop & Shop “9 = 36.” It must be the new math.

Toilet paper numbers

*MOUSE PRINT:

Of course, when you check the fine print on the label you discover a little more about the basis of comparison. All dozen packages compare the number of rolls in that particular package to how many “regular” rolls it is the equivalent of. Regular rolls? Do regular rolls even exist any more? They’re hard to find, and the package looks like a toy. But here it is — a package of four regular rolls of Charmin (before two additional downsizings brought the number of sheets per roll down to a meager 71). The package is only slightly taller than a dollar bill.

Charmin regular rolls

Why does P&G compare each package to a virtually non-existent product that people are no longer familiar with? It makes no sense, except to make you think you are getting more than you really are.

While that second number in the comparison always relates to “regular” rolls, the first number does not relate to the same size roll. Sometimes it means double rolls, double rolls “plus,” mega rolls, or mega rolls “plus.” Does anyone have the sizes of these memorized so that the comparison is meaningful? These are all made up names with an ever-changing number of sheets on each roll. And during a period of downsizing of Charmin, which we are in the midst of, it is even more confusing. There are two “12 = 54” packages noted above. One has 352 sheets per roll, and the other only 326, yet they are both called “double plus” rolls.

How confusing can you get? These comparisons are meaningless to most shoppers, yet the major makers of paper products like toilet paper and paper towels continue to play this game and emphasize these confusing numbers in ever bigger and bigger print.

Here’s a novel idea: just tell us how many rolls are in the package and how many sheets are on each roll. And put that in big print.




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June 26, 2017

The Fine Print on Vitamin Labels is Wrong!

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:08 am

We often caution consumers not to believe the big print in advertising because the fine print may well contradict it. Now we have to say that you can’t always even rely on the fine print either to give you the straight poop.

Case in point: According to ConsumerLab.com, the fine print on the back of vitamin labels is currently wrong and is going to continue to be wrong for possibly the next four years!

*MOUSE PRINT:

vitamin label

Last July, the FDA changed the daily values (DV) recommended for 20 vitamins and minerals. The amount was raised for eight nutrients and lowered for a dozen others. The catch is that food and supplement makers were given until 2018 to change their labels. But in mid-June, the FDA quietly indicated it was going to extend the deadline. The industry had requested a reprieve until 2021.

This obviously leaves consumers in quandary as to whether they are getting enough or too much of the vitamins and minerals the government now says is the correct amount.

In the above example for Centrum Silver for example, the label says you’re getting two and half times the daily amount of vitamin D in every pill. But the daily amount of vitamin D has doubled from 400 IU (10 mcg) to 800 IU (20 mcg). So Centrum’s 1000 IU dose is really only 25% more than the new recommended amount rather than the two and half times that the label claims.

Here are the changes in daily values of vitamins and minerals according to the FDA.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Magnesium has increased from 400 mg to 420 mg

Manganese has increased from 2 mg to 2.3 mg

Phosphorus has increased from 1,000 mg to 1,250 mg

Potassium has increased from 3,500 mg to 4,700 mg

Calcium has increased from 1,000 mg to 1,300 mg

Vitamin C has increased from 60 mg to 90 mg

Vitamin K has increased from 80 mcg to 120 mcg

Vitamin D has increased from 400 IU (10 mcg) to 800 IU (20 mcg)

Chloride has decreased from 3,400 mg to 2,300 mg

Chromium has decreased from 120 mg to 35 mg

Copper has decreased from 2 mg to 0.9 mg

Molybdenum has decreased from 75 mcg to 45 mcg

Zinc has decreased from 15 mg to 11 mg

Thiamin has decreased from 1.5 mg to 1.2 mg

Riboflavin has decreased from 1.7 mg to 1.3 mg

Niacin has decreased from 20 mg to 16 mg

Vitamin B-6 has decreased from 2 mg to 1.7 mg

Vitamin B-12 has decreased from 6 mcg to 2.5 mcg

Biotin has decreased from 300 mcg to 30 mcg

Pantothenic acid has decreased from 10 mg to 5 mg

A DV for choline has been established the first time, at 550 mg




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