Is the consumer under deception by the food industry? Many people are not aware of what is contained in food. For example, there is yoghurt with flavourings made from wood chips instead of real fruit, which is coloured with beetroot extract. In dairy products hydrocolloids are used as gelling agents which are extracted from animal bones. Furthermore, inferior residual meat (mechanically separated meat) could end up in meat products without labelling. Animals are also given undeclared, genetically modified feed – and these are later processed into burger patties on our plates.
What is clear is that the food industry is looking for ever more sophisticated methods to help its products succeed and/or to circumvent legal barriers. Products with terms such as “from the region” or “from here” are regularly marketed as regional food, although in reality they are not. This is right because the term “regional” is not protected.
Misleading designations are often used to give a false impression of the product, such as “housewife style”. Also in this case there is no legal regulation, which would prevent this.
Another trick is XXL packaging, which suggests that there is a lot of content in it. In reality, however, only air is packed in and the net quantities are ultimately no greater. This is more common with sweets.
When the packaging of a food product is reworked, the size of the packaging often remains the same, but the amount of content is reduced. A well-known food company, for example, launched a multipack for a chocolate bar. Instead of one, 2 bars were now included. But the bars were much lighter: for the same amount of money, only 180 g were included instead of 210 g before. This represents a substantial price increase of 17%.
Likewise each third apple juice is clarified with the help of animal gelatine. However, the “hidden animal” cannot always be identified from the packaging.
It behaves similarly also with geographical designations of origin. Whether the “Greek yoghurt” actually comes from Greece is not always clear to the consumer on the packaging.
Consumer centres and organisations such as foodwatch provide information on current cheat packaging and other “scandals”.
There is no uniform definition of “functional food”. In the narrower sense, these are foods that are advertised beyond the normal nutritional effect to have additional positive effects on one or more functions in the body (health-promoting, increased well-being, etc.).
A typical example are pre- and probiotic yoghurt products, which are said to have positive effects on the intestinal flora. Functional foods are offered exclusively as food and not as capsules or powder. They are supposed to unfold their effect in quantities customary in consumption. In most cases – despite active advertising by the manufacturers – a well-founded scientific proof is still missing.