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August 26, 2019

Otter Pops: 100% Fruit Juice, or Are They?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:56 am

Rachel K. recently bought her kids some Otter Pops as a summer treat. The variety she purchased, being a health conscious mother, was labeled “100% fruit juice.” For those unfamiliar with this item, they are plastic sleeves filled with juice that you serve frozen.

Otter Pops box

Looking at the ingredients statement, this sharp consumer noticed something completely unexpected.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Otter Pops ingredients

That’s right, sugar! She rightfully asks how can this product advertise that it is 100% fruit juice when it has added sugar. In fact, the nutrition facts statement says it has three grams of added sugars. That means these pops have almost 50% more sugar than regular apple juice.

FDA regulations seems to require manufacturers to add a statement after a 100% juice claim if it contains non-juice ingredients. In the case of added sugar, it might have to be labeled “100% juice with added sweetener.”

21 CFR 101.30 (3) If the beverage contains 100 percent juice and also contains non-juice ingredients that do not result in a diminution of the juice soluble solids or, in the case of expressed juice, in a change in the volume, when the 100 percent juice declaration appears on a panel of the label that does not also bear the ingredient statement, it must be accompanied by the phrase “with added ___,” the blank filled in with a term such as “ingredient(s),” “preservative,” or “sweetener,” as appropriate (e.g., “100% juice with added sweetener”), except that when the presence of the non-juice ingredient(s) is declared as a part of the statement of identity of the product, this phrase need not accompany the 100 percent juice declaration.

When we questioned the FDA directly about products like Otter Pops, they indicated that this regulation only applies to beverages and thus is not applicable because this product is a frozen treat. In that case, less specific regulations apply, and the FDA spokesperson said the agency would likely accept the labeling as it currently appears.

However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said in comments to the FDA about a related regulation that “One hundred percent juice must be precisely that – 100% juice product from the fruit(s), exclusive of any other non-fruit juice ingredient, like added sugar.” And if does have added sugar, that fact must be clearly stated upfront.

We asked the company if they could understand how consumers are being misled by their front label and inquired on what basis they believed they were in compliance with FDA rules. A public relations spokesperson for Jel Sert, the manufacturer, responded:

“The Otter Pops label complies with the regulations promulgated under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, with the label stating “with other ingredients added.” We are confident that our packaging is accurate and does not contain misleading information.”

In our mind, stating on the front label in small type that the product contains “other added ingredients” is insufficient to overcome the impression created by the phrase “100% fruit juice” in much larger letters. Most consumers would understand “100% fruit juice” as a product having no added sugar.




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give support For 24 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, original stories, and independent investigations. But we no longer receive financial support from a corporate sponsor. So reluctantly, MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your help to keep Mouse Print* and Consumer World available free. Your gift will be most appreciated.


• • •

July 8, 2019

This Free Pet Food Rebate Turns the Table on Retailers

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:30 am

Shoppers often complain that mail-in rebates are a pain in the neck. You have to send in the proof of purchase, pay for postage, and keep your fingers crossed that you will actually get your money back.

Now one pet food manufacturer, Pets Global, is doing it differently. The company issued a unique manufacturer’s coupon/rebate good for a free four-pound bag of Essence dog or cat food worth up to $17.99. But instead of making the consumer buy the product and send in the proof of purchase, they are making the store do it.

Essence pet food rebate
Click to enlarge

This looks pretty normal. While it appears the consumer has to fill out the coupon, one of our faithful readers says it really is the retailer’s contact information that is required according to the company. The fine print turns the tables on the retailer who sold the product converting the coupon into a rebate of sorts.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Retailer Instructions: 1. Return this completed form. 2. The original proof of purchase receipt dated on or before 7/31/19 with the purchase price of the product circled. … Must be sent to a Pets Global distributor within 60 days of date printed on receipt for redemption.

Distributor Instructions: Send completed coupon form and receipt from retailer to Pets Global…

Some would say all rebates should work this way… but don’t hold your breath since manufacturers rely on the “breakage” and “slippage” that results when shoppers don’t follow through with the rebate process. But some states and municipalities have adopted rules that require retailers to provide the rebate to customers at the time of sale. Witness the fine print for the 100% rebates for several items in this week’s Macy’s Black Friday in July sale featured in Consumer World (see Bargain of the Week):

*MOUSE PRINT:

In “CT, RI, PR, and Dade and Broward counties in FL, rebate is given at the register.”




Please Help Support Mouse Print*

give support For 24 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, original stories, and independent investigations. But we no longer receive financial support from a corporate sponsor. So reluctantly, MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your help to keep Mouse Print* and Consumer World available free. Your gift will be most appreciated.


• • •

June 17, 2019

Barilla Settles Class Action on Underfilled Boxes

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:46 am

Back in 2016, four Italian consumers sued Barilla, the largest pasta maker in world for misleading packaging. They alleged that the company sells specialty pastas like gluten-free, whole grain, “ProteinPlus,” etc. in the same size cardboard boxes as their traditional pastas. There is only one problem — the specialty boxes are the same size as the regular boxes but typically contain 25-percent less pasta, 12 ounces instead of the usual 16 ounces.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Barilla 12oz vs 16oz

In this case, the boxes head-on appear identical, and they are equal depth front to back. But there is more empty space inside that the shopper is not able to detect until purchasing the product. This is known as “slack fill” — non-functional empty space — and it is illegal under federal law and some state laws. (Pictures of the gluten-free and whole grain boxes are shown in the lawsuit above.)

Late last year, the company decided to settle without admitting any guilt and the case is now closed. Purchasers of Barilla will get nothing other than satisfaction that the company has agreed to make a disclosure on the box and also include a “fill line.”

It should be pointed out that Barilla is not alone in selling partially filled pasta boxes. For example, Prince engages in the same practice as demonstrated by these two spaghetti boxes that are both the same size but one has 25-percent less product.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Prince spaghetti

Notably, Stop & Shop and Giant’s store brand has taken appropriate steps to put some of their 12-ounce pastas in thinner boxes than the one-pound size.

*MOUSE PRINT:

SS rotini front
SS rotini top




Please Help Support Mouse Print*

give support For 24 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, original stories, and independent investigations. But we no longer receive financial support from a corporate sponsor. So reluctantly, MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your help to keep Mouse Print* and Consumer World available free. Your gift will be most appreciated.


• • •

June 10, 2019

Did Those Clever Keebler Elves Try to Pull a Fast One?

Filed under: Downsizing,Food/Groceries,Humor,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:02 am

While shopping recently, MrConsumer spotted this bonus pack of Keebler Chip Deluxe cookies.

Keebler Chips Deluxe bonus pack

The package proclaims “Now 20% More Cookies FREE.” Great, who doesn’t like a free bonus? The package weighed 15.8 ounces.

A couple of rows over, however, MrConsumer saw some regular (non-bonus) packages of those same cookies.

*MOUSE PRINT:

Keebler Chips Deluxe regular

That package doesn’t claim to contain a bonus, and it also weighs the exact same 15.8 ounces. The “old” package just above appears to have been manufactured only FOUR DAYS before the bonus package based on their “sell by” dates being only four days apart (July 31, 2019 for the old one, and August 4, 2019 for the new bonus one).

So what did those clever little elves do? According to the label, both packages had 30 cookies? Is this the new math?

We asked Kellogg’s, the manufacturer of Keebler cookies, for an explanation. Unfortunately they sidestepped the issue, only saying:

We increased the weight (ounces) of each of our Keebler Chips Deluxe retail packages by 20% without an increase in price as a way to offer more value to our consumers. Each package now has up to six more cookies.

The availability of the new packages varies, as they flowed through over time. We started production of the new packages at the end of last year.

Because we have covered the downsizing of Keebler cookies in the past, we know the packages had gone down to the 11-12 ounce range about five years ago. The packages are clearly larger today.

The best we can tell, checking hundreds of Keebler Chips Deluxe pictures in Google image search, the most prevalent previous size was 12.6 ounces. The package contained about 24 cookies. The current 15.8 ounce packages contain about 30 cookies according to the label. Mathematically, that’s 25-percent more cookies, not 20-percent.

But that still does not explain how the 15.8 ounce bonus package above can be identical in weight and number of cookies (30) as the non-bonus package that immediately preceded it, being produced seemingly just four days earlier. We may never know.

But, wouldn’t it be nice if manufacturers who downsize their products called shoppers’ attention to it in as a bold a way as when they upsize them?

Keebler Fewer Chips package




Please Help Support Mouse Print*

give support For 24 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, original stories, and independent investigations. But we no longer receive financial support from a corporate sponsor. So reluctantly, MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your help to keep Mouse Print* and Consumer World available free. Your gift will be most appreciated.


• • •

June 3, 2019

This Is Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Right?

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 6:13 am

One of our readers, Mark H., was shopping for olive oil in his local supermarket and came upon this product:

Fiero evoo blend

It looks like extra virgin olive oil. On closer inspection, under those words in smaller type it says “original blend.” What does that mean? Is it mix of various extra virgin olive oils, or some of it is extra virgin and some of it is something else?

The back of the bottle at least partially answers the question.

*MOUSE PRINT:

ingredients

The ingredients statement, which is required to list the contents in the order of predominance, indicates the product is mostly canola oil, followed by vegetable oil, and lastly extra virgin olive oil. A call to the company’s sales department revealed that the actual amount of olive oil in the product is “up to 15 percent.”

That revelation would probably come as a surprise to most shoppers because of how the product is labeled on the front of the bottle.

The Food and Drug Administration has regulations with relevant labeling requirements:

21 CFR 102.37

The common or usual name of a mixture of edible fats and oils containing less than 100 percent and more than 0 percent olive oil shall be as follows:

(a) A descriptive name for the product meeting the requirements of 102.5(a), e.g., “cottonseed oil and olive oil” or another descriptive phrase, and

(b) When the label bears any representation, other than in the ingredient listing, of the presence of olive oil in the mixture, the descriptive name shall be followed by a statement of the percentage of olive oil contained in the product in the manner set forth in 102.5(b)(2).

21 CFR 102.5

(b) The common or usual name of a food shall include the percentage(s) of any characterizing ingredient(s) or component(s) when the proportion of such ingredient(s) or component(s) in the food has a material bearing on price or consumer acceptance or when the labeling or the appearance of the food may otherwise create an erroneous impression that such ingredient(s) or component(s) is present in an amount greater than is actually the case…

In short, the rules seem to say the name of the product should not be misleading as to the amount of olive oil in the product, and the percentage has to be stated when it is a blend.

We asked the company, Terra Mia, some pointed question. Their President responded saying they are changing the label of this product this coming August when supplies of the old ones run out. We also requested a copy of the new one, but never received it.

In our view, since consumers rely on product labeling and this one so crosses the line, we filed a formal complaint about it with the FDA.




Please Help Support Mouse Print*

give support For 24 years, Consumer World has served readers with the latest consumer news, money-saving tips, original stories, and independent investigations. But we no longer receive financial support from a corporate sponsor. So reluctantly, MrConsumer turns to you and humbly asks for your help to keep Mouse Print* and Consumer World available free. Your gift will be most appreciated.


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