Opinion: Wall of Shame

POSTED: 11/14/12 12:29 PM

Creativity is not exactly a weak point with Big Food. The producers of all those products that populate supermarket shelves know how to handle challenges – like the obligation to list ingredients on their product-labels for instance.

The Dutch Consumers association has set up a Wall of Shame on its website that exposes producers who tell stories or sometimes outright lie on their labels. It’s a lesson from across the ocean but it is probably also valid for many products found in local supermarkets on the island.

Take for instance a product like Crystal Clear. It’s sold in Dutch supermarkets as water full of freshly pealed oranges and tangerines. But the real content of fruit juice in this product is – fasten your seat belts – 0.02 percent. That’s not more than a drop per liter.

Another example of wrong footing consumers comes from Klene, a producer of liquorice. On the packages liquorice-aficionados will find an ingredient called carbo medicinalis vegetabilis. That sounds a lot better than charcoal – that’s what it really is. The ingredient gives liquorice its black color.

Albert Heijn, the largest grocer in the Netherlands, brings tomato ketchup under its own label. The label tells consumers: 0% fat. Even though this is true, it is also meaningless, because there is never fat in tomato ketchup.

St. Dalfour’s produces a “strawberry spread” and proudly announces that no sugar is added to this product. Again, that’s not an outright lie, but the spread does contain concentrated grape juice and that is of course rich in sugars.

This way Big Food is chasing critical consumers straight to stores that offer organic products. For those who think that it is not all that bad, the consumer association posted yet another example: guacamole, also from Albert Heijn. Guacamole is supposed to be mashed avocado with some fresh additions like garlic and lemon. The guacamole the consumer Association found in the supermarket however, contains 0.7 percent avocado. And oh, not avocado, but avocado powder.

Menno Steketee, a writer for NRC Handelsblad, notes that the main ingredient in guacamole is supposed to be avocado.  The supermarket guacamole consists for 99.3 percent of water, onion, oil, tomato, bell pepper and additives like starch, sugar, milk protein and colorants. Shameless, was the word consumers used for this product.

Steketee helps his readers out with the following recipe:

Roast garlic cloves until they are brown; that could take a quarter of an hour. Check whether they are sill raw, otherwise roast them some more. Let the garlic cool and then chop it up.  Put the fruit pulp of the avocado in a bowl with lime, finely cut spring onions and really finely chopped coriander. Mix well and adjust for taste with salt.

We figure that this will put the supermarket guacamole out of business.

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