Healthy or junk food? Busting food labels (CBC Marketplace)
(♪♪)>>Tom: We’re hitting the grocery store. Baskets in hand. Eyes focused. On popular food products.>>Erica: Investigating whether companies are playing fast and loose when it comes to food labelling.>>Tom: Start the day with Nutella. Everything from breakfast — to dinner.>>Erica: Healthy Request. Sounds good.>>Tom: I’m sold.>>Erica: We’re finding a healthy diet of food claims.>>Tom: 100% natural. Garden Vegetable.>>Erica: Bread with veggies?>>Tom: Seems that’s the hype these days. But are company claims supported by the facts? Or is it just food fiction? How important are the labelling claims to your decision?>>That’s the first thing I look at.>>I’m a dad so I like to get. you know, certain types of nutrition to my boys. They’re still growing so they eat a lot of protein.>>Quite a bit. I used to be not in the best of health so it became a habit over time.>>Erica: To find out about these healthy food claims, we check out… And meet up with a guy who can help us read between the lines. Hey, Yoni.>>Hi, Erica.>>Erica: Good to see you.>>Nice to see you.>>Erica: Dr. Yoni Freedhoff runs a health and nutrition centre in Ottawa. He’s been called Canada’s nutritional watchdog.>>How would you describe some of the marketing tactics companies use to get people to buy their stuff?>>They’ll use anything and everything that they can to try to convince consumers that what’s in those packages is health food.>>Erica: How successful do you think the marketing is?>>I think it’s extremely successful. Every aisle of the supermarket is preying on us. They’re preying on our psychologies. They’re preying on our beliefs It’s not fair.>>Tom: Let’s start with the first meal of the day. A popular breakfast item. Nutella. You know, the one that’s spreading the message that “breakfast loves Nutella.”>>Knives, spoons, fingers and cheeks. Made with roasted hazelnuts. Breakfast loves Nutella.>>Tom: Precious Chong’s family loves it, too. Her 9-year-old son Jack eats this sweet treat three times a week. He’s nuts for Nutella.>>Delicious!>>Tom: She first ate the stuff as a child in Europe, and says now it’s a staple in her home. When you’re serving Nutella for Jack in the morning, how much do you give him?>>Mm, like, between a teaspoon and a tablespoon full in his oatmeal.>>Tom: Do you know anything about the ingredients of Nutella?>>Mm, I know it’s like hazelnuts and sugar?>>Tom: Any idea how much sugar is in there?>>I don’t know.>>Erica: The manufacturer says it can be part of a balanced breakfast. But is Nutella really a good way to start the day? What do you think of this product?>>Well, I think that it is spreadable candy.>>Erica: Candy! Why?>>Well, basically everything you spread on that piece of bread will be sugar.>>Erica: So just how much sugar does Nutella pack?>>Erica: It says each serving is one tablespoon, so I’m going to just get a tablespoon of this, and that has 11 grams of sugar. Okay. Here we go.>>Nutella really, it’s a bit of whey powder, so we’ll put some whey powder and it’s a bit of skim milk powder, so we’ll put that, too. Some cocoa powder. We’ve got cocoa powder. And now everybody knows there’s hazelnuts in there, but I don’t know if everybody knows there’s only two-and-a-half hazelnuts in that tablespoon. And then there is just shy — one gram shy of three teaspoons of sugar.>>Erica: That is a ton of sugar on my toast.>>It is a lot of sugar on your toast. You know, a lot of people, they say, well, we know it’s not healthy, but I’m not sure people know just how much this actually is.>>Erica: All that sugar in just one serving. And Freedhoff thinks people are eating more than that.>>The label, it’s swimming in Nutella. I wonder if two tablespoons would make it look more like that label.>>Erica: And once you make it two tablespoons of Nutella, you’re eating five-and-a-half teaspoons of sugar, and that’s not all. You’ve got another ingredient down there. What’s that?>>I do. This is chocolate icing.>>Erica: You think there’s a comparison?>>Well, in fact there is less sugar, tablespoon for tablespoon, in this chocolate icing than in that Nutella.>>Tom: The company says it doesn’t promote the nutritional value of Nutella. If you eat it with some whole grain toast, fruit and milk it can be part of a complete breakfast. But that’s little consolation for our Toronto mom. In a serving of Nutella, which is a tablespoon, there are 11 grams of sugar.>>Wow.>>Tom: Do you know how much that is?>>No.>>Tom: Almost 3 teaspoons. (clears throat)>>That’s a lot of sugar. So I’m basically giving a chocolate bar to my son for breakfast.>>Tom: The fact that Nutella markets itself as a breakfast food, sells itself that way, and knowing how much sugar’s in it, how do you feel about that?>>Oh, I mean, it’s a sham. It shouldn’t be a breakfast food, it should be like a dessert.>>Tom: The latest in a long list of unhappy Nutella fans. A couple of years ago the manufacturer made national news in the U.S. when it was sued for false advertising.>>I thought it was at least as nutritious as peanut butter, maybe a little bit more, and that’s just the impression I got from the commercial.>>Tom: The company had to pay its customers $3 million.>>Erica: They may have tweaked their advertising to tone down the impression it’s “healthy” but this sugar cop says it’s still leaving a false impression. Why are companies allowed to market their product as though they’re good for you?>>Companies are allowed to say whatever they can get away with saying. Now, they’re like teenagers. Their job is to push the envelope. To see what they can get away with to sell as much product as possible.>>Erica: One of the slogans for this product is “breakfast loves Nutella”.>>Well, kids may love Nutella and maybe breakfast does too but I’m not so certain that health does.>>Erica: Let’s put this one away.>>Indeed.>>Erica: Time for us to turn the tables on this label. Change food fiction into food fact. So, let’s make breakfast loves Nutella… Nutella loves sugar. (ding)>>Tom: With breakfast done, time for lunch.>>Erica: Healthy Request. Sounds good.>>Tom: I’m sold.>>Erica: Throw it in?>>Tom: You bet. So we pick up some Campbell’s Healthy Request soup. So when you see the word “Healthy Request” on that, what does that mean to you?>>It would mean to me there would be more vegetables in there. It would have some type of whole grain in there.>>Healthy Request? Well, I’d have to look at the ingredients before I figure out if it is healthy.>>Vegetables and nice looking things on the side. So I’d think, yeah, that’s something I would consider.>>Erica: So just how healthy is this soup? We’ve got this Campbell’s soup. It’s called Healthy Request and there are a lot of health related things on this label.>>There’s no question that label screams healthy. I mean, even if you look at the spoon, you don’t see soup. You just see a spoonful of vegetables right above a logo that’s got a heart with the world “healthy” on top of it. So this is, I would imagine, the marketing point is heart healthy soup.>>Erica: So let’s look at the amount of sodium in there. It has 470 milligrams of sodium per serving. How’s that number?>>Well, first, 470 milligrams of sodium in a serving of soup might not be a small number for someone who is worried and concerned for real reasons about sodium. So people with heart disease, that’s actually quite a lot for a serving of soup, but I have a question. How much is the serving of soup in this case?>>Erica: It says per serving of 250 millilitres, but this has almost 400 in it. In this container.>>And so that would be almost 750 milligrams of sodium in that container.>>Erica: If you ate the whole thing.>>Now, I wonder who wouldn’t eat the whole thing. I mean, look at this container. So it is a single serve container. I say that because you can’t reseal it.>>Erica: Campbell’s says it uses the standard serving size for soup set by the government. That way, shoppers can make a fair comparison. But it looks as if Campbell’s could be breaking government rules around labelling. If a food product could reasonably be eaten at a single sitting, the company has to give you the nutritional info for the whole container. How misleading is it then to give the sodium for a serving size that is not the entire thing?>>I think it’s very misleading. You know, especially when you’ve got a container that clearly is something people would regularly consume all at once.>>Erica: And that’s not the only food fiction going on.>>If you want to know how much sodium, it’s the same amount of sodium as you would get if you ate this entire bowl of potato chips.>>Erica: You wouldn’t sit down and eat an entire big bowl of potato chips like that.>>No. And if you’re making your own vegetable soup at home, the likelihood of you putting that much sodium in is quite low.>>Erica: So this Healthy Request soup?>>Not so healthy. (♪♪)>>Tom: Back at the grocery store, we give shoppers the scoop about this soup. Do you think that’s a healthy request?>>It’s terrible. It’s terrible.>>Wow! (Laughing)>>I’d probably rather have the potato chips.>>Tom: (Laughing) They have Healthy Request on here. It’s got that much sodium in it. How do you feel about that claim?>>It doesn’t seem healthy at all.>>Tom: So time for another label makeover. Let’s turn Campbell’s “Healthy Request” soup into… Campbell’s “Salty Request” soup. (ding)>>Erica: When we come back, more popular names, and marketing games. Is this 100% fruit bar 100% healthy?>>Yeah, that’s something that I’d probably stay away from.>>Tom: And later… What “Krafty” claims are you being served for dinner?>>It’s (bleep), is what it is.>>What lousy label bugs you? Snap a photo and share it with us on Facebook and Twitter. (♪♪)>>Erica: Tom and I are on the move through the grocery aisles, looking for products that claim to be good for you, trying to separate food fact from food fiction. We’ve checked out breakfast. Next up on the lunch menu…>>Tom: Oh, here we go. Garden Vegetable.>>Erica: Bread with veggies?>>Tom: With our soup.>>Erica: Perfect combo.>>Tom: Okay.>>Erica: We’ve got Dempster’s Garden Vegetable bread.>>Tom: What do you think when you see that label?>>Well, vegetables — of course vegetables are good for you, right?>>Well, I think that should be better for you. It should give you a bit more of your daily vegetable intake.>>Erica: So does it? Back in the kitchen we ask our nutritional watchdog Dr. Yoni Freedhoff. The packaging is covered in carrots. What does it suggest to you?>>I think it suggests probably to me, and to most people, that loaf of bread has a lot of carrots in it.>>Erica: Carrots have plenty of nutrients. So what’s Dempster’s serving up?>>Erica: Carrots are known for their Vitamin A. Let’s see how much Vitamin A is in here per serving. It says a serving is two slices, and you’d get 6% of your daily recommended allowance of Vitamin A. How much is that in terms of actual carrot?>>Actually not a lot. So if you actually wanted to get your Vitamin A from a carrot source, an actual vegetable, the amount of carrot you’d need to eat is just over about a gram worth of carrot which I’m guessing is roughly this much.>>Erica: So pretty misleading?>>I think it’s very misleading. And I think, really, what it speaks to is that when you put vegetables in a food, the processing strips away their nutrition. Eating a carrot is not the same as eating carrots that were placed into processed food. Even if many are put in there, nutrition gets stripped out.>>Erica: Dempster’s says two slices of their Garden Vegetable bread has a half serving of veggies, but after processing, there aren’t a lot of vitamins. So if you ate the entire loaf of this bread, how much carrot would you get?>>Well, for a medium sized carrot, it would be about a seventh of a carrot.>>Erica: If I ate the entire loaf of bread, that much Vitamin A?>>That’s correct.>>Tom: Dempster’s says the label is factually accurate, but our grocery shoppers are still frustrated with that tiny amount of vitamins. You’d have to eat the entire loaf to get the Vitamin A equivalent of a carrot that big.>>That just seems like a lie. (laughing)>>The immediate reaction is kind of like, ah, because you got me.>>To put a big thing on the front like that says garden vegetables, and those are vegetables whick would have Vitamin A in them. I think that’s pretty — to me, that’s misleading.>>Erica: So the actual amount of Vitamin A in this bread gets an “F”?>>Yes. An “F” for food fiction.>>Erica: Time for another label makeover. Let’s turn Dempster’s Garden Vegetable bread into… Dempster’s “Where’s The Veggie?” (ding)>>Tom: Next on our shopping list we’re on the hunt for a midafternoon snack. Grocery aisles these days are filled with food labels making all kinds of fruit claims. Look at those. 100% fruit. Check this one out. Made by Sun Rype. It’s called fruit source “100% fruit bars.” How can you go wrong?>>These are the things that go lunch boxes, you know, and stuff like that.>>Well, if you see 100% fruit then you would think, okay, that’s like an apple. Or it’s like an orange or a pear or something.>>Erica: Time to find out if this fruit bar is as good for you as you think. If we look at the nutrition facts, 29 grams of sugar in every bar. So how much sugar is that?>>Well, the amount of sugar in each one of these bars is the same amount of sugar you get if you ate four, five, six-and-a-half Oreo cookies. And I don’t think many parents would be sending their kids with six-and-a-half Oreo cookies worth of sugar to school every day and thinking that was healthy.>>Erica: Well, you’d never do that. Parents think this is a healthy alternative. Not six-and-a-half Oreos worth of sugar.>>That’s right.>>Tom: Shoppers are shocked there’s that much sugar in one bar. A single one of these bars has 29 grams of sugar.>>Okay.>>Tom: That’s the equivalent of six-and-a-half Oreo cookies.>>Yeah, that’s something that I’d probably stay away from.>>Well, it would be surprising to me that there’s that much.>>Well, I’d rather have the six-and-a-half Oreo cookies.>>Erica: We called Sun Rype and they said that this product is derived from 100% fruit.>>And I believe that fruit started their processing chain. Right. This is a processed food, and the processing of fruit changes its nutrition. This again is candy. Candy masquerading as fruit is still candy.>>Erica: Now, you might know all that sugar in this fruit bar is natural and adds up once it’s processed, but are you getting the good stuff, too? Strawberries are known for their Vitamin C so let’s see per bar how much Vitamin C you get and it says 2% of your daily allowance. How much is that?>>It’s not a lot. So if you were to consume one strawberry and you wanted to get the same amount of Vitamin C from those bars, you’d have to eat six of them. Truthfully, I think the only thing we should be able to market as actual fruit is actual fruit.>>Tom: The not so sweet facts call out for another label makeover. Given all that sugar, let’s call Sun Rype… Sun Hype. (ding)>>Erica: When we come back, a popular pasta with a clever spin!>>That’s preying on peoples’ hope.>>Tom: And it’s your turn to give food makers a piece of your mind.>>Just be honest.>>Erica: Hey, watchdogs. Got a product or service you think we should test? E-mail us at [email protected] (♪♪)>>Erica: We’re scanning the grocery aisles for popular products, on the lookout for misleading marketing claims. We’ve checked out breakfast, lunch and a snack. So what’s for dinner?>>Erica: Kraft Dinner, Smart.>>Tom: Yep. Kraft has come out with a line of products to appeal to health conscious parents out there. It’s called KD Smart, with high fibre, veggies, even one with omega-3. Sure sounds healthy. So Kraft Dinner. It’s smart. It’s got flax, omega-3. When you see that kind of label, what do you think?>>I see flax, which I know is kind of good for me. I see omega-3 which, as someone with high blood pressure, I think should be having that.>>Tom: Would you think this is a healthier alternative to regular KD?>>I would think so, yeah. Just from the flax, omega-3, no artificial flavors, colours, preservatives.>>Erica: Here’s an unappetizing fact. All three “Smart” brands cost more than regular KD. So what exactly are you getting for that higher price? We ask nutrition expert Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, starting with the KD Smart with veggies. On the ingredients it says it’s got freeze dried cauliflower. So how much are you getting in each serving?>>Not an awful lot. I mean, this is Kraft Dinner. And you if you crunch the numbers you wanna see how much, for instance, Vitamin C worth of cauliflower you’ll get in a serving, it’s two tablespoons.>>Erica: That’s only an eighth of a cup! Yep. For every serving of this KD Smart, about a third of the box, you’re getting the Vitamin C found in two tablespoons of cauliflower. The other brand that they have here is Kraft Dinner Smart High Fibre, and the ingredients says this one has oat hull fibre in it. How much are we getting in each serving of this?>>You’re getting the equivalent amount of fibre as consuming roughly an apple, and on paper that sounds great, except there is health benefits to consumption of fruits and vegetables and whole grains. We don’t have the same wealth of evidence to suggest that if we take just the fibre out of those foods and add it to KD that suddenly it will make KD healthful. I think that’s a stretch.>>Erica: Finally the KD Smart with omega-3 with flax. Is there enough in the box to make a difference to your health? How much omega-3 are you getting in this?>>Well, so the evidence on omega-3 suggests that the best sources of omega-3 are the fish sources. And our bodies actually convert flax into the same types that you would get from fish but we do it very inefficiently.>>Erica: So just how much KD Smart would you need to eat in order to get the omega-3 you’d get in this piece of fish? Try 177 servings!>>This is not health food. You know if people want to eat Kraft Dinner, eat Kraft Dinner. It’s one of the rights of childhood. But to do it and think you’re being smart about it, well, that’s food fiction.>>Tom: Back at the grocery store, shoppers think what we’ve found is hard to stomach. We did some calculations on this. You’d have to have 177 servings, about 44 boxes of this, to get the omega-3 that you get out of one serving of salmon.>>Wow. That’s clever marketing, eh?>>Tom: Is that what it is?>>Well, that’s (bleep), is what it is.>>I think it’s really kind of selling the consumer really short in terms of what they’re actually looking to gain from this product.>>Tom: You call it misleading. Why do you think it’s misleading?>>Well, because they’re saying it’s a smart choice for eating and it’s not.>>Erica: Kraft admits there’s a not a ton of nutritional value with this trio, but says they’re a choice for parents with picky kids. We’ve decided their marketing is just a little too “krafty.” So bring on a new label! KD Smart, say hello to… KD Not So Smart. (ding)>>Erica: Dr. Yoni Freedhoff says the buck should stop with government. It needs to take more responsibility to make sure food labels aren’t misleading.>>We shouldn’t be forced as consumers to study nutrition labels to see if the claims on the front are accurate. I tend to waggle my finger most at the government for allowing the claims that we see on these packages to exist in the first place.>>Tom: We ask the government agency responsible for making sure these products aren’t misleading for an on-camera interview about our findings. No luck. We want to talk to all the companies on-camera about this food fiction too, but they say no. The food makers may not be talking, but we know you’ve got something to say to them.>>Just be honest. You don’t have to go through this. People will still buy your product if it tastes good.>>You’d probably sell your product just as well if you weren’t engaging in these activities, and you’re probably losing a certain segment of the market, like me.>>They’re baiting us into buying what they have. Either we have to change our laws about what they can say or we as consumers have to be more educated.>>They really have to be more deliberate with putting the actual ingredients more in the forefront instead of…>>Tom: More transparent or open?>>More transparent instead of the buzzwords that people seem to be picking up on.>>You’re eating it, too! You’re feeding your kids this stuff, too you know? It’s time for change.>>Tom: And that’s a food label cleanup in the grocery aisle.>>Next week on “Marketplace”.>>Checkout charity. It’s giving to a good cause.>>Tom: So how come we don’t always feel good doing it?>>As soon as I see there’s a campaign going on I think, oh, brother, here we go again.>>While stores raise millions, we’re left to wonder what’s in it for them.>>They don’t tell you that at the checkout counter. There’s no accountability.>>Some believe there’s a different, better way.>>Give me a reason to do it beyond feeling good.>>Doing good, but feeling bad. That’s next week.