Truth in Advertising – How to choose

It was during one of my mandatory trips to Woolies and typically confronted with a 10 person deep queue that I overheard two elderly ladies speak in the tut tut manner with which elderly ladies are sometimes inclined to do.

Lady 1 (spoken in a raised tone to ensure that the intended culprit caught each and every word): Why do some people allow their children to get so FAT!

The Federal Health Minister Nicola Roxon has acknowledged that obesity is a serious and growing problem in Australia.

Consumer Action organisation Choice believes one solution would be to enable people to make healthier choices. But surely some people question, don’t people realize what they’re putting in their mouths? By the look of Australia’s obesity crisis which has now estimated at being 60 per cent of adults and one in four children overweight or obese, it seems that they don’t.

Perhaps one reason for many people failing to make healthy choices is that manufacturers are allowed to sell anything and still call it “lite”, “diet”, “a healthier choice”, “energy food”. Foods are displayed in the Health Food section of the supermarket without rhyme or reason – a “health” bar from this section can contain the same number of kilojoules and the same amount of sugar as a chocolate bar from confectionery.

Another example are the sugar filled cereals which tout “high fibre” and “high protein” qualities while ignoring the fact that the box is full of sugar. And a personal favorite of mine, the products which proudly announce that they are 99% fat free when their major component is sugar.

To help overcome the mixed and confusing messages put forward by manufacturers as to the healthiness of their products Choice has suggested clearer labelling of packaging. Needless to say manufacturers are fighting any changes to the current labelling requirements, their argument being that they already provide this information.

Why provide anything clearer than this they argue.

One thing is absolutely certain and this is when I am doing my dart in and out of the supermarket one of the last things that I’m going to do is stand there and read the flea size print to try to ascertain whether or not 29.7g of sugar or 395mg of sodium per 100g is or is not a healthy amount.

Below is an example of what the manufacturers are fighting against, a clear easy to see traffic light system. I’ll believe that manufacturers of these sugar laden products are sincere wanting to help Australia’s obesity crisis when they proudly print their sugar content in the same size font as they proudly proclaim 99% fat free.

Please feel free to use this post for any consumer related whinges.

33 comments on “Truth in Advertising – How to choose

  1. Hi Min,
    I noticed,when in S’market there are same items in Health section (health bars,example) and in the Confectionery section,but at a vastly dearer price in Health section.

  2. Yes Eddie that sugar component suddenly becomes more expensive when it’s in the health food section..the same as clothing..the price of an article can quadruple depending upon which label the ladies in the Thai sweat shop are told to sew onto it.

  3. What a great subject(s) Min … obesity, health, labelling, false and misleading advertising and rude little old ladies all bundled into one thread!

    Busy at the mo … but plan to return with comments on my pet hates … aspartame and flouride … as you know, I’m also just a fat, unhealthy, rude, little old man so it’ll fit in beautifully! 😀

  4. Actually I do tend to read those nutrion panels.

    But wandering supermarkets these days it is amazing to see the sheer volume of utter crap that’s for sale.

    It’s not like the good old days when fruit and veg looked like it was half rotten. These days apples look like they belong in a car showroom.

  5. One of my favorites is waxed carrots. One of life’s necessities of course is shiny carrots. I only found out by eating a raw one, or should I say I took one bite to find my teeth coated in wax..errkle. I buy only loose carrots these days.

  6. Reb, plus apples taste as if that’s where they plastic decoration. What ever happened to ‘crisp’, I’m sure that apples used to have this attribute once upon a time.

  7. When I was working in the UK there was a doco on the differences between many continental European supermarkets and UK ones, which more or less demand the same perfection in fruit and vegetables as our supermarkets here.

    Spanish and French markets have discoloured and malformed produce on the shelves as long as the base produce is still consumable. Our supermarkets as do the UK ones, have what they call substandard produce rejected and left to the producers to dispose of, at great cost to the producers.

    This demand by the major supermarkets not only costs the producers but also the consumers, yet the supermarkets falsely claim that it is a demand of the consumers. You only have to go to a Farmer’s Market that are sprouting up all over the place and have a sample of a product straight off the farm that would be rejected by the supermarkets to see that is a nonsense.

    On another part of the subject. In Victoria near Doncaster somewhere there used to be an apple orchard, maybe still there, that had over 100 varieties of apples, some of which went back hundreds of years. These apple varieties will never be seen on a supermarket shelf because of shape, short shelf life, colouration etc., but I remember the wonderful tastes to this day when my parents took me there and I revisited in my late 20’s.

    It is this type of thing that our and UK supermarkets are killing and I’m just glad that in many corners of the world there are still markets and people who don’t mind that a piece of fruit or a vegetable isn’t the perfect size, shape and colour but rather buy for the taste, texture and value.

  8. Mobius, this is something that I also noticed. After the Brisbane flood a supermarket chain representative made a public plea, Please consumers, please accept less than perfect produce.

    I thought, how strange I didn’t realize that consumers expected ‘perfection’ in the first place and nor do the supermarkets provide this..the evidence being the trays of shrivelling mushrooms and punnets of partly moldy strawberries.

  9. Min I’ve given up buying apples except from places like the farmers markets. Otherwise you get something thats been in cold storage for however long it takes to destroy the taste. I buy only from the fruit and vege shops, never from the big two.

  10. Marketing, “bad” foods in the “wrong” place, was highlighted for me when I worked in Atlanta, Georgia … the home of Coca Cola … one of the high schools was “sponsored” by Coke and they had a Coke Day where everyone had to wear a Coke T shirt … one of the boys wore a Pepsi shirt in protest (my kinda guy!) … his punishment was three days suspension …

    … big outcry on talkback radio … and rightly so …

    … the general consnsus Coca Cola should have absolutely no influence over kids’ education … Coke then had a PR problem to deal with …

    … do not let the food (or any companies) get into “sponsoring” your local schools … my family recently objected to pizza day tuckshop … sponsored by —– Pizza Hut … they also attempted a … MacDonalds Day!!!

    … now the free Maccas bacon and egg rolls at the local RSL Gunfire Breakfast on Anzac Day is a much better promo and your dealing with adults …

  11. Pip, locally grown produce is one thing that I miss a lot since moving from Billinudgel..we had a ripper of a store run by the Seventh Day Adventists. They sold only local grown so that when things were in season there were substantial bargains to be had such as 4 avocados for $2.00 when the local Coles was selling them for $2.49 each. And this is aside from the taste of food freshly dug or freshly picked.

  12. TB, that’s where the difference lies I think. One is a form of advertising aimed at influencing kids to make sure that they nag parents for their particular brand and the other provides a service for adults.

  13. ‘aimed at influencing kids ‘


    The dreaded checkout line, with their rows of ‘impulse’ buys

    How I hated them!!!

    I ended up taking munchies with me to feed the kids just to shut them up while going through the checkout. Its known as throwing in the towel 😦

  14. I once worked in a deli as a kid where the owner had a crate of apples that weren’t selling. Overnight he put half in another crate and labelled them ‘premium apples’. They sold out by lunch time.

    As far as those nutritional labels on products, well, unless I’m wearing my glasses there is no way I can read them.

  15. A possible consequence of Milk Wars..

    Independent grocery retailers have warned of future shortages of fresh milk because of the affect of discounting on the profitability of the dairy industry….

    If Australia goes down the path of the UK experience, the Australian marketplace would be completely different, he said.

    “This will mean that my grandchildren in Western Australia will never drink fresh milk.”

  16. Min, is it too naive to hope that the Senate will use it’s clout for the good of us all, including the dairy farmers and the smaller grocers?
    Silly question.

  17. Migs, me either..glasses plus magnifying glass.

    Another trick used by manufacturers is the ‘average serve’ on one product it’s say 40g while for a competing almost identical product it’s 35g. One product is grams and another product it’s ml. Manufacturers obviously don’t want people to be able to make any sort of comparison of products.

  18. Pip according to the SMH article the National Association of Retail Grocers of Australia told a Senate inquiry into milk discounting that there should be greater scrutiny by ACCC. Hopefully the government will take notice.

  19. “It’s not like the good old days when fruit and veg looked like it was half rotten. These days apples look like they belong in a car showroom.”

    Never a truer word, and they have as much flavour as those cars.

  20. Some breakfast cereals claim that a bowl of the product contains such and such of goodness.

    That is correct . . . once the milk is added!

  21. It has been suggested that Coles intend to destroy the fresh milk market, replacing fresh milk on their shelves. Long life milk does not need refrigeration and can b bought cheaper overseas. They are already attacking the egg market.

  22. I am waiting for a grocery web site to evolve. It is impossible for the small grocer to compete with the big two, but a web site, even one backed by small grocers may just work.

  23. A ‘favorite’ of mine is good old Nutrigrain Iron Man actually has a higher sugar content than Cocopops. You’ll grow into a big strong iron man son, but it’s a pity about your teeth.

  24. CU, precisely what the National Association of Retail Grocers were suggesting “This will mean that my grandchildren in Western Australia will never drink fresh milk.”

  25. RE Milk enquiry

    Its seems strange to me that when Woolworths get competition that we have a Senate Enquiry (who’ll jabber and wonk and walk away) …

    Just who is running the show? Who requested the enquiry? An enquiry that was set up very quickly too …

    If the farmers are at risk surely there’s other ways to tackle it … back in the good old days we had milk delivered – with online retail maybe there’s a possibility it could return …

    Do we import milk now?

    Just askin’

    Disclaimer: We buy Devondale Long Life (UHT) skim milk and have for years – we buy bulk when its on special at —- $1 … (Full Cream for when the g/kids visit)

  26. Thanks Min, I just heard Xlyophone say that the dairy farmers contract (price) is affected if “name” brands are not selling … that’s a good reason for me.

  27. Looking at the news tonight, I hate to say it, it is time to by-pass Coles when buying groceries. This poses a problem for me, as where I live on the Central Coast, I do not have much choice.

  28. CU, it’s easy enough for people to say to shop elsewhere but completely inpractical for country people. Another of my bugbears is the disappearance of Buy Australian and as a tour of any supermarket will show there is plenty of produce on display which is marked as imported, basic fruits and veg that we once used to supply for ourselves. Maybe there should be a quota for Australian produce which must be followed by the major supermarket chains.

  29. I’m still not sure about Coles … Wesfarmers is a pretty switched on company (ie as regards customers, pricing and satisfaction) … hardware rivals were not happy about Bunnings either and they own Officeworks and still provide good pricing and now with online shopping even better service …

    (Disclaimer: A Wesfarmers business was a client of mine for many years)

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