January 25, 2011

make it till you fake it

if you are what you eat, apparently, i'm a crunchlet.

last week, i read an interesting piece on NPR about the blueberries found in many cereal, breads, and other packaged snacks. they turn out to be not so blue...nor berries, actually. in fact, these sometimes creatively named "blueberry-flavored crunchlets" boast ingredients like oils, starches, sugars, and artificial coloring. here's a melodramatic video to hammer it home.

reminded me a lot of the impostors we faced when i worked at POM in los angeles. POM defied the fruit juice category by making its juices only with 100% pomegranate juice, unlike competitors who undercut on price by diluting their product with cheap grape juice and other fillers.

an even more disturbing, but perhaps less surprising, story surfaced on jezebel today condemning taco bell's ground beef filling. turns out actual meat makes up only 36% of my beloved hose meat -- so called because its appearance suggests dispensation via hose. the disturbing ingredient list included oat product, cocoa powder, and anti-caking agent. yum. (pun intended.)

i worked in food for many years, yet i'm still surprised by the lengths food manufacturers will go to drive down ingredient expenses. with increased cost pressure, they have every financial incentive to convert real food products into cheap fillers. it's a dangerous trend.

when i was in shanghai last month, a representative from LVMH railed on china as the "land of fakes," pointing out, among other things, the prevalence of fake food products. america has traditionally turned up its nose at the quality of chinese products vs. the supposedly high-standards of the US, but if our food industry doesn't shape up soon, we won't be able to rest on those laurels for much longer.

1 comment:

Jonathan R. said...

Yeah, I saw on the legal blogs (and then major news media) the Taco Bell thing. Kinda sad they dont even have enough meat in it to call it "beef" legally, but also pretty pathetic when the standard has been set long ago why they went below it with what % meat was in the product. Usually dont see lawsuits like this since the standard isnt too tough to meet (heh) and has been in place a long time. Something like blueberries I can see being expensive and so cereal companies or other foods that get away with freeze dried looking things would want to go the cheaper route, but still shouldnt be allowed to call it something it isnt.