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March 20, 2017

The Secret Behind Shrinking Corned Beef

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:12 am

Clara Peller, the feisty senior who famously questioned the lack of meat in Wendy’s competitors’ burgers, could well reprise her memorable line, “where’s the beef,” when it comes to corned beef.

Cooks across the country surely noticed last week that the plump corned beef brisket they boiled for St. Patrick’s Day emerged from the pot only a fraction of its original size. Most people probably chalked it up to the high fat content of corned beef. But that is only part of the reason.

Had all of us paid more attention to the package the corned beef came in, we would know the primary reason for the shrinkage.

*MOUSE PRINT:

corned beef

corned beef

What? Thirty-five percent watery brine? You bet. And we are not talking about water with a 35% concentration of salt and chemicals that the brisket took a bath in. The solution is actually injected into the meat to plump it up big time. According to meat packers that MrConsumer consulted, while the solution is in deed needed to “corn” the beef, manufacturers that inject their briskets with more than 20% solution are doing so for economic reasons.

A three pound piece of beef brisket plumped up with 35% solution magically becomes about a four pound brisket. That’s how stores can sell raw corned beef in Cryovac packages for only $1.69 a pound around St. Patrick’s Day. And this is all perfectly legal as long as the percentage of solution is stated on the package if over 20%.

One corned beef manufacturer candidly put it this way, “We’re basically selling water.”




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March 6, 2017

Movie Candy — More Box Than Candy

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:15 am

Have you seen the price of movie candy lately? In Boston, AMC Theatres charges $3.99 to $4.49 for a box with just 3.5 to 5.5 ounces of candy inside. Yikes.

These boxes have come under scrutiny lately because of several class action lawsuits against major manufacturers. Shoppers allege they were misled by the packaging which makes it look like there is a lot of candy in the box, but in reality, most are only about half full.

Here is a story about it by Jeff Rossen, NBC’s investigative reporter on the Today Show (with MrConsumer at the end).

Rossen Reports Movie Candy
Click to watch video

When manufacturers over-package a product creating empty space inside that has no function other than to make consumers think they are getting more for their money than they really are, that is called slack fill, and it’s illegal under federal law (and the law of some states). It is not illegal if the empty space is needed because of settling of the product, or because the machinery to fill the package requires it, or the space is needed to protect the product (such as the cushioning pillow created by large potato chips bags).

Here’s another example not part of a lawsuit. This is a huge box of Bazooka bubble gum — maybe six or seven inches long and over an inch thick. Sure looks like it has a lot of gum inside.

Bazooka

But when you stack up the contents, you get much less than meets the eye given the size of the box.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Bazooka contents

Although the net weight is on the package, and fine print on the back says there are “about 19” pieces inside (there were 18 in this box), the FDA and courts have ruled that having the net weight on the package is an independent requirement separate from the requirement not to use deceptive packaging.




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February 13, 2017

When the Chips are Down in Fat, Are the Calories Too?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:40 am

Diet-conscious consumers are probably attracted to low-fat products. And in the case of potato chips, they probably feel a bit less guilty indulging in that treat if it contains less fat.

Enter Cape Cod 40% Reduced Fat potato chips:

Cape Cod potato chips

Now don’t assume that the reduced fat chips on the right have 40% less fat than the Cape Cod regular chips on the left.

*MOUSE PRINT:

fat reduction claim

The reduced fat chips contain 40% less fat than the market leader, Lay’s potato chips. Lay’s has 10 grams of fat per ounce, Cape Cod 40% Reduced has six grams – 40% less as advertised, and regular Cape Cod has eight grams. This means that Cape Cod Reduced Fat chips contain 25% less fat than their own regular chips — still a substantial savings.

Dieters, however, are not only concerned about fat but calories as well. Would you care to venture a guess as to how many fewer calories Cape Cod 40% Reduced Fat chips has compared to their regular chips?

*MOUSE PRINT:

Cape Cod chips nutrition label

What? The lower fat chips have exactly the same number of calories — 140 — as their regular full-fat chips? Yep, that’s what the nutrition (alternative?) facts label says.

How can that be? The portion size is exactly the same – 28 grams — as is the number of chips per portion, but there is 25% less fat in one product.

So we posed that very question to the PR folks at Snyder’s-Lance, the makers of Cape Cod chips. And we also wanted to know whether they felt they had an obligation to dispel the likely consumer misimpression that their 40% fat reduced chips were lower in calories than their own regular variety. In reply, after three attempts to obtain answers, all the company (through their PR firm) would say relevant to our questions was this:

With regards to the calories in each item, we adhere to the strict FDA regulations that dictate how companies must calculate and report nutritional information.

Clearly something just doesn’t add up here. The company should be able to explain to customers how it is possible that their substantially reduced in fat product offers no caloric savings if in fact the label is correct.




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January 23, 2017

The New Math at Mio

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:06 am

Mouse Print* reader Jack K. recently wrote to us complaining about Mio water enhancer. This is a little bottle of concentrated flavor that you squirt into a glass of water to give it some flavor and maybe a few vitamins, all while adding zero calories.

Mio label   Mio side label

Jack says that despite the label promising that the product makes 24 eight-ounce glasses, he was getting much less and felt shortchanged. Since the amount a customer squirts into a glass could vary each time, our intrepid consumer used a measuring spoon, following the instructions on the side of the bottle which called for using about 1/2 teaspoon per glass. Lo and behold when he emptied the bottle he had only been able to make the equivalent of 16 eight ounce glasses of flavored water — one-third less than the package promised.

We did a little math using an online conversion program to find out how many half teaspoons are actually in a bottle whose net contents are 1.62 fluid ounces (48 ml).

*MOUSE PRINT:

Mio conversion

There are about nine and three quarter teaspoons worth of syrup in those Mio containers, which is slightly less than 19-1/2 half teaspoons. So just by pure mathematics, each bottle only holds enough product to make about 19 glasses of beverage rather than the 24 claimed.

We contacted the PR folks at Kraft to ask about this discrepancy. They responded in part as follows, without directly addressing our specific math question and example:

MiO Vitamins and our other MiO products are labeled properly.

Other Mio Vitamins products yield 24 servings and have prep instructions that indicate 1 squeeze of approximately 1/2 teaspoon (~1/2 tsp) per 8 floz. We clearly label that this is 2ml/about 1/2tsp for a 1.62oz 48ml) bottle.

So, if you want 24 glasses of Mio from each bottle, you’ll just have to use your handy 2-ml measuring spoon, which, of course, no one owns.




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January 16, 2017

How Much Milk Can You Squeeze Out of an Almond?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:31 am

Almond BreezeElsie the cow would probably turn over in her grave if she could see all the newfangled milks on the dairy shelf, like Milkwise, which we wrote about in 2015. And there are a lot of soy milks and almond milks.

Almond Breeze is one of the big brands. It looks and sounds wholesome and nutritious. But even checking the ingredients listing doesn’t give you a full picture of what you are really buying.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Almond Breeze

It may seem like a bit of circular reasoning, but “almondmilk” is the first ingredient in almond milk. But if you are just casually reviewing the list, it appears that almonds are the second ingredient in the order of predominance after water. But that is a bit of word trickery — almonds are not really second overall. After that is a form of sugar, which might give a clue to what you are really buying. And the nutrition label offers yet another clue by noting it only has one gram of protein.

The trouble is we really don’t know how much of the product is derived from almonds. I don’t know about you, but when I squeeze an almond, I can’t get any milk out of it. 🙂 So leave it to some industrious lawyers who found out the answer.

*MOUSE PRINT:

According to a lawsuit they have filed in 2015, Blue Diamond Almond Milk only contains two-percent almonds.

So the product is really just a bunch of water and sugar with a pinch of almonds. While the flavor may be pleasing to many, the nutritional value of the product seems questionable at best.

Fast forward to late 2016 and early 2017.

A settlement of this class action was announced last month that will cost Blue Diamond $9-million. And of course, the company denies any wrongdoing and stands by its advertising. Consumers who purchased Almond Breeze are entitled to $1 back per container, for up to 10 containers, depending on whether they have proof of purchase or not. The deadline for filing a claim is April 13, 2017.

Last November, 25 members of Congress wrote to the Food and Drug Administration calling on the agency to investigate and take action against any producers of “milk” products that are not derived from cows.

And just last week, Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin introduced a bill in Congress to fight back against nondairy products mislabeled as milk, yogurt or cheese.




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