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December 31, 2012

Canned Goods: More Water than Food?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:58 am

tunaNext time you go to the supermarket, pick up a can of chunk light tuna fish and shake it close to your ear. You will hear a lot of sloshing around of water, making it sound like there is more ocean than tuna in the can.

That is not far from the truth. This past summer, three California district attorneys filed a lawsuit against the makers of Bumble Bee, Chicken of the Sea, and Starkist tuna alleging that they were putting less fish in their cans than the label promised. The companies agreed to pay $3.3 million to settle the cases.

Now, Chicken of the Sea has come out with “no-drain” tuna in a can:

No drain tuna


The new no-drain tuna comes in a tiny four-ounce can (compared to the now common five-ounce can, which used to be six-ounces, which used to be seven-ounces, and a few other sizes in between).

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But it is not just tuna that is water-laden. Consumer Reports decided to check 63 cans of vegetables, fruit and chicken to see how much food was in the can and how much was water.


The results: they found water comprised 34 – 48 percent of the contents! And, that amount of water was totally legal based on federal standards.

Here is a video of their tests.

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  1. This is why I try to prepare my food from fresh ingredients as much as possible. There are some foods that are not readily available outside of a can, but for the most part it seems better to buy fresh food or dry food.

    The fewer opportunities a company can use to deceive customers the better.

    Comment by Wayne R — December 31, 2012 @ 8:35 am
  2. I didn’t realize these companies were all nailed for adding extra water, but I guess I had figured that out. I actually switched to WalMart brand last year because Starkist and Chicken of the Sea (which I used to buy) both seemed to be getting much more “watery”. It was obvious, but I didn’t know there was a lawsuit.

    Comment by Tina — December 31, 2012 @ 9:38 am
  3. Wayne R, the problem with fish though, you never even know what type of fish you are getting as the stuff in stores and restaurants is fake 50 to 70% of the time.

    I guess you can go to the market, buy fish whole so you can see what you are getting, but many of us don’t even have that option.

    Comment by Tina — December 31, 2012 @ 9:39 am
  4. Wayne, you’re absolutely right-on about cooking fresh. Plus, one doesn’t have to contend with the unpronounceable chemicals that are added to canned stuff, including the BHP can linings. Since I retired, my motto is: “more time than money”. Cooking and baking have become my hobbies that I can really sink my teeth into.

    Tina, like you, I had noticed canned tuna seemed to be getting a lot “waterier”. Given that observation, plus continual downsizing, I’ve just plain stopped buying canned tuna.

    And last, thank you Edgar for another year of warnings and insights.

    Comment by Marty — December 31, 2012 @ 10:45 am
  5. I haven’t bought ‘chunk light’ tuna in years due to it becoming MUSHY. I now only buy ‘albacore’ solid white tuna. But I do not consume too much of that either because of mercury. ‘They’ say that albacore tuna has more mercury than the others! I guess we have to trade one ‘evil’ for another?

    Comment by Gert — December 31, 2012 @ 1:10 pm
  6. I am, of course, shocked to learn that a seafood product has water in it.

    The real victims in all of this are those that have invested in recipe books. When you’ve got an old recipe that calls for a can of tuna, expecting that can to contain 7 ounces of tuna, you’re going to get a lot of not-so-tuna-ey tuna casseroles, because they’ve only got a 4 ounce modern can – 50% of which is water.

    Buuuuut… the anti-tuna-fishing crowd will be very pleased that there is less tuna in each can.

    Buuuuut… the environmentalists will be very angry that there are more cans per ounce of tuna in our landfills and recycling systems.

    There can be no winner.

    Comment by Toddy541 — December 31, 2012 @ 2:39 pm
  7. Although a bit tongue in cheek, if the water contents is over 50%, do they have to by law list the ingredient contents as such in order of percentage? And how will the label be worded? Can of water with tuna (or whatever) added?

    Also, one wonders what the real weight of the tuna is sans the weight of the water!

    Edgar replies: Freezer Queen used to manufacturer these two pound frozen dinners like salisbury steak, turkey, etc. The turkey dinner was labeled “Gravy and Turkey”… and you can imagine why.

    Comment by Frankie — December 31, 2012 @ 2:42 pm
  8. The only place I know of where you cans till get 7 oz of tuna in a can is Costco. If I’m reading this Chicken of the Sea can right, there’s an ounce of water in it.

    Serving size: 2 oz drained (56g/about 1/4 cup). Servings about 3.

    But here’s something I never noticed before. In the small print Ingredients it says, “Vegetable broth (contains soy).” HUH?!? Soy in fish? What about people who have soy allergies? Was this fish “made in the same factory that produces nuts?” Sure seems like it.

    Other entertaining fine print on the label: “PRODUCT MAY CONTAIN BONES.”

    Comment by Tutti Bella — January 11, 2013 @ 2:13 am
  9. I just opened a can of Chicken of the Sea sardines (in “oil”) today and found 3 sardines and plenty of space. Yesterday I opened what was apparently an older can and found 4 sardines tightly packed in, as with the many others I had recently. I’ll see if all the new ones are slimmer in fish (and maybe higher in water content, which is listed 3rd in ingredients.)

    Comment by RobS — January 20, 2013 @ 10:35 pm

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