Food Labelling – It’s in the small print!

As a mother first and a nutritionist second, I’m really aware of the foods I give my toddler.  But even I can get caught out with deceptive labeling on some items.  And it looks like some of the culprits are being called to order on this seemingly ubiquitous practice.

The brand ‘Gerber’ conjures up images of a bonny baby, a healthy baby, a brand a mother can trust.  Well, they and their parent company, ‘Nestle’ have been severely wrapped on the knuckles by an appeal court in California regarding deceptive imaging used on their “Fruit Juice Snacks” product.  The packs had pictures of real fruit to market the treats, which are actually just like gummi bears.  The court said that consumers would likely be deceived because the package depicts images of oranges, cherries and strawberries, though the leading ingredients are corn syrup and sugar. Gerber argued that parents should turn the pack around and read the ingredients but the court stated consumers should not be “expected to look beyond misleading representations on the front of the box to discover the truth from the ingredient list in small print on the side of the box.”

Which brings me onto my point at the start of this article.  I’m used to reading, nay, analyzing, the ingredient lists on the side of a packet and I would feel pretty comfortable buying something that I had scrutinized. A few weeks ago, I was just after returning back to NY from Ireland and my son and I were up at the crack of dawn because of the time difference.  I had no oatflakes in the house so we went down to the local store to buy some.  All I could find was instant oatmeal,…cinnamon this, maple syrup that and I was getting slightly exasperated and said to myself: “Is it impossible to find plain ol’ oatflakes?!” Then they appeared. ‘Organic Instant Oatmeal’ ORIGINAL AND SUGAR FREE from Nature’s Path. I had a look at the ingredients and I was happy enough to get it.  I tasted it just before I was to give it to my son and literally had to spit it out! The amount of salt in it was unbelievable.  It was like I had made the oatmeal with sea water!  I was horrified and indignant that a brand that describes their philosophy as “Nurturing People, Nature and Spirit” would put so much salt in their product!

So, I called them.

And thankfully, I was wrong, well, I was right but it was a mistake on their behalf.  There was a production line malfunction and literally three times the amount of salt got into one batch.  The minute that they realized this had happened, they pulled the product from all of their retailers.

I was so glad to have made the call and talked to them directly because now my worries and, to be honest, anger, about this brand have totally disappeared, and, they have a new opportunity to score a new customer, not to mention the fact that they now know people will call them up on mistakes and misleading information.  It’s up to us as parents to enforce ethical practices among the food companies.  The case brought against Gerber was by a private citizen; talk about David and Goliath!  Take encouragement from this, each and every one of us has a voice and can be heard.  If you have a complaint or a query about a food product, make the call and voice your concerns.  Nine times out of ten, you’ll probably get a reasonable explanation like I did but you never know, you could be the next David against a Goliath.