Food tricks and deceptions


How food manufacturers trick and deceive consumers

Many food manufacturers advertise their products with information on the packaging such as "Free from preservatives" or "Without artificial flavors". Consumer advocates, however, warn of such peculiarities. Because it is usually not clear to the customer that “Free from” usually means “but instead”. The ingredients are often only exchanged for others and the consumer is thus misled. On the occasion of the two-year existence of the Internet portal Lebensmittelklarheit.de, consumer advocates take a closer look at the "Free of" information.

When it comes to food, consumers are often misled with notices such as “Free from”. If a product contains a “Free from” label, this means that one ingredient is avoided, but is usually replaced by another. However, this is usually not unhealthy. It is “rather a lack of transparency,” explains Martin Rücker of the Foodwatch consumer organization to the “dpa” news agency.

“Free from artificial flavors” usually does not mean that no flavors are contained in products such as strawberry yoghurt. Rücker explains that natural flavorings are often used instead of artificial ones. "They taste the same as the taste of strawberries, but they don't necessarily have anything to do with strawberries." It doesn't matter what raw material the flavor is made from, as long as it's not artificial. Even wood or paper could be used, for example. "You can pull flavors out of the wildest things," reports the Foodwatch expert.

The note "Free from flavor enhancers" does not really deliver what it promises. Because, as Rücker explains, products sometimes contained yeast extract instead of flavor enhancers. "Before food law, this is not a flavor enhancer, but it does have a flavor-enhancing effect." Officially, the manufacturers then only use one additional ingredient, even though a substance with exactly this effect is actually added.

Many food ingredients are not harmful to health, but are deceptive to the consumer
Silke Schwartau from the Hamburg Consumer Center reports to the news agency that even when it says "Free from artificial dyes", they dig deep into the bag of tricks. Because similar to the flavors, the artificial colors would simply be replaced by natural ones. For example, strawberry yogurt often contains beetroot juice as a colorant. Although this is not harmful to health, it is a consumer deception, says Schwartau.

The imprint "Free from added sugar" does not mean that there is no fructose in a product. "A cereal, for example, can still be very sweet because it contains fruits that naturally contain a lot of sugar," explains the consumer advocate. Customers should also not be misled by information such as “30 percent less sugar”. Schwartau points out that it can still contain a lot more sugar than in a similar product from another manufacturer. The 30 percent would only refer to the original recipe of the product. A look at the nutritional table could provide information.

"Free of preservatives" is also one of the tips that consumers could easily deceive. For example, acetic acid has been used for the preservation of food for thousands of years, but according to the law it does not have to be identified as a preservative, explains Schwartau. That is why it is contained in many products that bear the imprint “Free of preservatives”.

Consumer advocates call for more transparency in the labeling of foodstuffs Foodwatch calls for more effective, legal measures against consumer deception. Oliver Huizinga, expert for food advertising at Foodwatch, takes stock on the occasion of the two-year existence of the consumer protection platform "Lebensmittelklarheit.de": "For two years, Ms. Aigner cheerfully promotes an information page about label fraud, can be said clearly from the accompanying research to the portal, that legislative changes are necessary - alone, she has done practically nothing. ”It is simply not enough if the portal makes some products more honest. In supermarkets, consumers would have to be protected from the deception of hundreds of thousands of foods. "The minister's job is to protect consumers from everyday fraud - she obviously wants to sit out until the end of her term," said Huizinga.

Foodwatch has set itself the goal of uncovering anti-consumer practices in the food industry and fighting for the right of consumers to healthy, good quality food. For example, the organization annually awards a negative price for the brazenest advertising lies in children's food, for this year Capri-Sonne from Wild, Monster-Backe Knister from Ehrmann, Paula from Dr. Oetker, Pom-Bär from funnyfrisch and Kosmostars from Nestlé were nominated. You can vote on the campaign website. (ag)

Also read:
Foodwatch: advertising lies in children's food

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Video: June 5 till July 8 Exhibition: What do we eat? -- Deceptions in food packaging design


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