Pack up your troubles

My Mum was a demure little lady, she probably struggled to be five foot three in the old scale. She used to tell us all, “There’s good stuff in little parcels!” And in her case it was true.

Today’s packaging regime makes a mockery of that, because in most cases it’s not true. Certainly marketers use packaging to appeal and to differentiate one product from another when they appear on shopping centre shelves. That’s a legitimate tactic, competitor to competitor. My problem is with packaging that misleads.

Some of it is, by way of the graphics but almost 70% of misleading advertising appears on packaging in the small print. Let’s examine just a few:

My favourite is ‘Sugar-free’. Most of us fall for it, but one should know that foods without added sugar might actually have a long list of artificial sweeteners, and there is empirical scientific evidence showing artificial sweeteners may trick your body into craving more sweet foods.

Next is ‘Fat Free’. In reality, those foods probably have fat in them and the nutrition facts just don’t tell the complete truth. Nutrition and diet expert Bonnie Taub-Dix explains, “If you happen to eat several servings or a few different ‘trans fat-free’ foods during a day, you can wind up consuming a measurable amount, which leads to increased levels of artery-clogging, bad (LDL) cholesterol. Don’t be fooled!”

Then there’s “Freshly Squeezed” juice. Yes the journey starts with the oranges being squeezed, but that’s the first and last normal step. The juice is then sealed in tanks and the oxygen removed. That prevents the liquid from spoiling for up to a year giving it a longer shelf-life! What you don’t know is this process removes all the taste from the orange juice. The juice sits on a vast amount of extremely watery fruit pulp that tastes of paper and little else. They bring the flavour back with a mix of chemicals called a ‘flavour pack,’ made by the same fragrance companies that create perfumes. Then they bottle the orange scented paper water and sell it to you.

And there’s ‘Real Meat Burgers’. Fast food chains, like – you know the one we mean – claim their burgers are made from 100 percent beef, supplied by accredited farms, happily promoting the authenticity of their meat. To be fair – aside from the rare E.coli outbreak, the meat is clean. It’s just how they get it clean that’s really worrying. Here’s the very ugly truth, they use ammonia. You know, the harsh, evil-smelling chemical they use in fertilisers and oven cleaners.  It kills E.coli really well. So, they invented a process where they pass the hamburger pattie through a pipe where it is doused in ammonia gas.

In 2006 Julie Robotham, Medical Editor of the Sydney Morning Herald wrote this, “ The mandatory nutrition information that appears on all processed foods in Australia is often inaccurate and misleading, according to the first analysis of how well the claims reflect packet contents.”

Yes, packaging can lie visually and textually so beware, no longer can we say, “There’s good stuff in little parcels.”