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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.


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.


(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:


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 10, 2017

Report: Amazon Still Promoting Phony Discounts

Filed under: Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:40 am

For years, Amazon has often used the “manufacturer’s suggested list price (MSRP)” as a reference price for many products to be able to claim that Amazon’s current selling price would save shoppers a huge sum of money. Savvy consumers know that very few items ever sell at full MSRP, so any savings claimed compared to that number are likely to be fictitious. We have previously shown you crazy examples where Amazon even used inflated reference prices to facilitate their 80% and 90% off claimed discounts in some cases.

Almost exactly a year ago, we reported that Amazon apparently had discovered consumer religion and was dropping many of its phony comparisons to list prices. The change was likely a result of several lawsuits about their deceptive pricing practices.

More recently, Consumer Watchdog, a California advocacy group, noticed that Amazon was now advertising discounts from “was” prices (such as “Was $49.99” “Now 39.99” “Save 20%”). Sometimes the comparison just showed a price with a line through it, without explanation of what that comparative price actually represented.

So, like any good consumer group, they decided to conduct a survey. In June, they checked 1,005 items to see if Amazon’s new way of making price comparisons was less deceptive than the old way. They used a website called The Tractor, which maintains price histories for items sold by Amazon. In this way, they could see if the claimed “was” price was ever really charged by Amazon. See their full report.

The key findings included:

  • Amazon displayed reference prices on 46 percent of the products surveyed.
  • 61 percent of all reference prices were higher than any observed price charged by Amazon in the recent past (defined as 90 days).
  • In nearly four in ten cases, Amazon never appeared to charge the previous price from which it claimed to be discounting. It was entirely fictitious.
  • 83 percent of crossed-out prices on sale items exceeded the highest historical price in Tractor’s records. On average, they were double the highest price Amazon had charged previously.
  • Here are some specific examples from their study:


    Hammermill paper

    According to the study, you really were not saving almost 50% on this paper. Rather than $17.78 being the regular price for this paper at Amazon just prior to the sale as some might believe, there were only four periods lasting no longer than a day or two when that was the actual price in the past year at Amazon. Neat trick, huh? As a matter of law in Massachusetts, for example, advertising regulations require that an item be offered at regular price for 14 consecutive days first before it is discounted. And then it needs to be at full regular price for about 36% of the time if the seller is going to continue to make a comparison to the “regular” price. (There are other rules that can apply here too.)


    Amazon leather bag

    There was only six months-worth of price history on this item, but during that time, the most that Amazon charged was $26 — nowhere near the crossed out price of $149.99.

    Federal Trade Commission guidelines state:

    “If the former price is the actual, bona fide price at which the article was offered to the public on a regular basis for a reasonably substantial period of time, it provides a legitimate basis for the advertising of a price comparison…. If, on the other hand, the former price being advertised is not bona fide but fictitious – for example, where an artificial, inflated price was established for the purpose of enabling the subsequent offer of a large reduction – the “bargain” being advertised is a false one…”

    It is sad that a seller like Amazon, with its tens of millions of customers, seemingly continues to resort to using these deceptive pricing practices.


    • • •

    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


    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.


    • • •

    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!


    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.


    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


    • • •

    June 19, 2017

    Beefers: Where’s the Beef?

    Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:22 am

    Clara Peller, the famed octogenarian who squawked “Where’s the Beef?” when confronted with skimpy burgers in Wendy’s commercials of yesteryear, would possibly have suffered a heart attack on camera had she ever seen these beef patties.

    They are I&J Beefers, the top-selling frozen hamburger in South Africa.


    They look like pretty normal frozen beef patties. But there is a secret lurking on the back.


    Beefers ingredients

    What? They are only 36% beef? Yep! And the rest of it is mostly water and soy flour.

    South Africa’s labeling regulation requires food manufacturers that emphasize a key expensive ingredient in the name or description of a product to declare the percentage of that ingredient in bold type on the front of the pack. The company says they comply with the law. While the package above clearly did not, new packages do:

    Beefers percentage

    I&J, the manufacturer of Beefers, also sells frozen fried fish. We can only imagine what’s under the breading.


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