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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.


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?


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 30, 2017

Walgreens Misleads Customers on Rewards Program, Potentially Pocketing Millions

Filed under: Health,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:11 am

Consumer World Investigation

[Pressed for time? Read a summary of this story here.]

Like many drugstore chains, Walgreens has a loyalty program and they call it Balance Rewards. You earn points on most everything you buy, and points collected can be used like cash toward future purchases.

In April 2015, the company recognized some of the less appealing aspects of the program and notified members via email and on their website that starting May 31, 2015 they would have more ways to earn points:

Walgreens email

Great news — one can now earn points on prescriptions. (That asterisk only referred to limitations in a handful of states.) And sure enough, by early June 2015, Walgreens updated the main Balance Rewards webpage to indicate that “all” prescriptions – both 30 and 90-day ones — would earn points.

MrConsumer, like probably millions of others, orders 90-day prescriptions for maintenance drugs via Walgreens’ mail order service at Walgreens.com and was expecting to finally earn points on these purchases. It’s not a lot of money — you earn about a dollar for every three such prescriptions ordered or reordered.

Fast forward to February 2016. MrConsumer wondered how many points he had accumulated on prescriptions over the past nine months or so, so he checked his balance. A surprising ZERO was earned. He then wrote to customer service asking what happened and got this response:


Regretfully, you do only earn points for prescriptions if you fill your medications locally, rather than via Mail Order. Also, I have included a link to the Balance Rewards Terms and Conditions so that you may locate this information, if you would like to look.

That link to their February 2016 terms and conditions said nothing about online prescriptions being excluded from earning points. In fact, it said the opposite:


With the exception of photo orders (which require “store pickup” in order to earn Points), items ordered online and delivered to your home will earn Points as they would if purchased in store.

Now fast forward again to last week. Their website as of January 24, 2017 continued to advertise that you get 100/300 points for filling prescriptions both in-store and online, and that all prescriptions earn points:

Points online and in-store

– – –
All earn points

Note: footnote references shown above only relate to an exclusion in three states.

And this 2017 national television commercial also proclaims that all prescriptions earn points:

Walgreens TV ad

So, we asked Walgreens’ PR folks last Monday (January 23) why points were not provided as represented in advertisements and in multiples places on their website, and wanted to know what they were going to do to resolve the issue. In a statement, Walgreens replied:

“As stated on our website in the Frequently Asked Questions, only prescriptions picked up in-store are eligible to earn Balance Rewards points at this time. We are always appreciative of customer and member feedback, and take it into consideration as we continually review program materials. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.” – Emily Hartwig-Mekstan, Walgreens Media Relations Manager

Rather than admitting that the company unintentionally or carelessly goofed and that they would immediately fix the misleading representations, (or perish the thought, go back and make consumers whole), they suggested all was fine because one FAQ revealed the true facts. Incidentally, the main page for program details about Balance Rewards has no such FAQ except as it relates to drugs for pets and children. Only in the general help section for Walgreens.com under Balance Rewards, nowhere near where the points earning claims are made, is there a question among three dozen others that discloses that only prescriptions picked up in-store can earn rewards.

And remember that fine print terms and conditions statement (shown above) that says the only product category that requires in-store pickup to earn points is photos? Well, that was the wording until the day after our inquiry! Believe it or not, the very next day (1/24/2017) Walgreens inconspicuously amended their terms and conditions to now exclude prescriptions from earning points unless picked up in the store:


Exception added 1/24/17

What a coincidence in timing.

And to try to cover themselves on the main Balance Rewards page, a couple of days after our inquiry, they inconspicuously added a few words and a footnote to limit points earnings on prescriptions to in-store purchases only. These changes were made in the very places we had pointed out to them. We’ve highlighted their changes in red boxes below. [Compare to original.]

*MOUSE PRINT: (Use scrollbar below on the right to view.)

Walgreens Balance Rewards change

There is no word if they plan to change their television commercial.

In fiscal 2016, Walgreens filled 740 million prescriptions in its retail division, which includes mail order. It is unclear what percentage of those prescriptions were in-store versus mail order, but clearly, millions of consumers never got the likely millions of dollars of rewards that Walgreens promised.


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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).


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.


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.


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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November 28, 2016

Chipotle Sued Over Misleading Calorie Count

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

The embattled Mexican grill chain, Chipotle, is in trouble again.

In the course of promoting its new chorizo burrito which is made from chicken and pork sausage, the company touted on menu boards that it only had 300 calories.

Chipotle chorizo

Three diet-conscious California consumers took the bait and ordered this low-cal treat, but felt surprisingly full after eating one. They soon discovered they had been hoodwinked because this Mexican dish was nowhere near only 300 calories.

Mouse Print* reviewed the nutrition tables on Chipotle’s website and calculated the actual calorie count of a chorizo burrito.


Chipotle calories

As you can see, the chorizo burrito as described on the menu board has 1055 calories — more than three times the claimed amount. Just the tortilla wrapper alone is 300 calories, as is the chorizo alone.

This is likely to be an expensive mistake for Chipotle as the company is now being sued in a class action in California.

Informally, the company replied to some complaining customers on Twitter saying that the “300 calories is for the chorizo.”

Company spokesperson Chris Arnold, however, provided Fortune with this statement:

As a matter of policy, we dont discuss details surrounding pending legal action. I will note, however, that a lawsuit is nothing more than allegations and is proof of nothing. Generally speaking, we always work hard to maintain transparency around what is in our food, including the nutritional content, which is provided on an ingredient-by-ingredient basis.


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