A third of food products in the UK are mislabelled

zin

macrumors 6502
Original poster
May 5, 2010
488
6,439
United Kingdom
I'm interested in reading from the libertarians / free marketers among this forum. In a world where the government does not regulate the food industry, how would you ever know that food companies are lying as to what is inside of your food? I don't know about you but I sure don't have access to any kind of laboratory.

Consumers are being sold food including mozzarella that is less than half real cheese, ham on pizzas that is either poultry or "meat emulsion", and frozen prawns that are 50% water, according to tests by a public laboratory.

The checks on hundreds of food samples, which were taken in West Yorkshire, revealed that more than a third were not what they claimed to be, or were mislabelled in some way. Their results have been shared with the Guardian.

Experts said they fear the alarming findings from 38% of 900 sample tests by West Yorkshire councils were representative of the picture nationally, with the public at increasing risk as budgets to detect fake or mislabelled foods plummet.

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/feb/07/fake-food-scandal-revealed-tests-products-mislabelled
 

rdowns

macrumors Penryn
Jul 11, 2003
27,345
12,408
Can't say I'm surprised. I'd bet it's even worse in the US.
 

VulchR

macrumors 68020
Jun 8, 2009
2,329
10,250
Scotland
I'm waiting for the authorities to find crack cocaine in Red Bull.....

Seriously, though, the one thing that I have noticed since I moved to the UK 20 years ago is a willingness on the part of business people in all types of work and at all levels to act like con artists. In the UK it's not 'Buyer beware' but 'Screw the buyer'.
 

jnpy!$4g3cwk

macrumors 65816
Feb 11, 2010
1,100
1,293
I'm waiting for the authorities to find crack cocaine in Red Bull.....

Seriously, though, the one thing that I have noticed since I moved to the UK 20 years ago is a willingness on the part of business people in all types of work and at all levels to act like con artists. In the UK it's not 'Buyer beware' but 'Screw the buyer'.
Although the subject was different in this article, the principle is the same:

High-Speed Trading Isn't About Efficiency—It's About Cheating
When hedge funds use bots to buy and sell stocks within milliseconds, they're not improving the market. They're rigging the market.
MATTHEW O'BRIENFEB 8 2014, 9:00 AM ET


I wasn't sure I'd heard him right.

I was a senior in high school, and I was staring at NBA legend Red Auerbach. He'd coached the Boston Celtics to nine championships in 10 years, won seven more as an executive, and, a bit less notably, gotten his first coaching job at our school way back when. He was 85 years old, but he lived nearby and had finally agreed to come back to be feted.

We piled into the gym and buzzed as Auerbach ascended the make-shift stage at center court. There were introductions and congratulations and then it was his turn to talk. He was old, but still sharp. He regaled us with an embellished, if not apocryphal, story about how his proudest coaching victory had come at our school. That was back in 1941, and the score had been something like 10 to 8. There was also something about yelling at the son of a senator—this was a preppy, all-boys school in Washington D.C.—for trying an around-the-back pass.

Then Auerbach turned to life lessons. "Everybody always asks me how to gain a competitive edge," he said, "and I'm always surprised because the answer is so obvious." Eighteen-year old me knew where this was going. He was going to tell us to work hard, that successful people prepare for their luck, yada, yada, yada.

"You cheat."
For the rest of the story:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/02/high-speed-trading-isnt-about-efficiency-its-about-cheating/283677/
 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Aug 5, 2004
5,323
29,828
Catskill Mountains
Can't say I'm surprised. I'd bet it's even worse in the US.

Yep, there' are some big bucks afloat in DC when anyone says anything about changing food safety or nutrition labeling laws in the USA....

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2010/08/millions-spent-lobbying-food-safety-during-second-quarter/

The piece above is old news but still gives a good overview of how much effort agribusiness, retail megacorporations and the likes of chambers of commerce put into trying to make sure they don't have to provide consumers any more info about their foodstuffs than they've already been forced to do. It's eye-opening, and disappointing, but hardly surprising any more.

These outfits each spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per quarter trying to fight regulations on labeling or nutrition, food safety, environmental issues related to food production, transportation and sale. They manage to weaken most legislation that actually passes. I can only imagine what state our food would be in if we had even less regulation (or less enforcement of existing regulation, also a concern nowadays).
 

jnpy!$4g3cwk

macrumors 65816
Feb 11, 2010
1,100
1,293
The piece above is old news but still gives a good overview of how much effort agribusiness, retail megacorporations and the likes of chambers of commerce put into trying to make sure they don't have to provide consumers any more info about their foodstuffs than they've already been forced to do. It's eye-opening, and disappointing, but hardly surprising any more.

These outfits each spend hundreds of thousands of dollars per quarter trying to fight regulations on labeling or nutrition, food safety, environmental issues related to food production, transportation and sale. They manage to weaken most legislation that actually passes. I can only imagine what state our food would be in if we had even less regulation (or less enforcement of existing regulation, also a concern nowadays).
Even more annoying is that they try to prevent some companies from voluntarily putting extra information on their products. ex. rBST labels.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recombinant_bovine_somatotropin
 

Shrink

macrumors G3
Feb 26, 2011
8,914
1,596
New England, USA
No wonder food in the UK is nasty. :p
I'm sure your experience is more extensive than mine in eating in the UK...but when I was there (admittedly, many years ago), the restaurants in which I ate had wonderful food.

That said...mislabeling foods at a rate of 33% of total tested foods is pretty appalling.
 

Grey Beard

macrumors 65816
Sep 10, 2005
1,008
62
The Antipodes.
Our labeling is not so bad in New Zealand, but the fonts they use are so bloody small that I can't read the text without a strong magnifying glass.

KGB:cool:
 

iJohnHenry

macrumors P6
Mar 22, 2008
16,505
15
On tenterhooks
Our labelling is not so bad in New Zealand, but the fonts they use are so bloody small that I can't read the text without a strong magnifying glass.

KGB:cool:
Is there an iPhone app that allows you to scan the UPC, and it then gives you a readable list of the same information?

If not, there should be.

Hell, Siri could even read it to you, in her sexy voice. :p
 

JackieInCo

Suspended
Jul 18, 2013
5,178
1,584
Colorado
Can't say I'm surprised. I'd bet it's even worse in the US.
Here in the US, we have a problem with an ingredient being used in food that is used also to make yoga mats. I read an article on NBC News that mentioned it is in Subway bread, hamburger buns at McDs and BK as well as Jack in the Box and a chicken sandwich from Chick-Fil-A. Subway says it will stop using it sometime in the future and others have shrugged it off saying its FDA approved.
 

LIVEFRMNYC

macrumors 604
Oct 27, 2009
7,433
8,605
I'm sure your experience is more extensive than mine in eating in the UK...but when I was there (admittedly, many years ago), the restaurants in which I ate had wonderful food.

That said...mislabeling foods at a rate of 33% of total tested foods is pretty appalling.
Well the restaurants were not bad, but it wasn't great, although they do cook damn good steaks. I was mostly clowning about packaged foods from the grocery stores in the UK. Most of it taste so bland.

----------

Is there an iPhone app that allows you to scan the UPC, and it then gives you a readable list of the same information?

If not, there should be.

Hell, Siri could even read it to you, in her sexy voice. :p
Would fun to see her try to pronounce some of the long word ingredients.
 

NewbieCanada

macrumors 68030
Oct 9, 2007
2,565
34
Is there an iPhone app that allows you to scan the UPC, and it then gives you a readable list of the same information?

If not, there should be.

Hell, Siri could even read it to you, in her sexy voice. :p
When there's something absolutely too small for me to read and I don't have reading glasses handy, I photograph it with my iPhone and then zoom the photograph
 

lannister80

macrumors 6502
Apr 7, 2009
476
17
Chicagoland
Here in the US, we have a problem with an ingredient being used in food that is used also to make yoga mats.
Why is that a problem? What if alfalfa was used to make yoga mats?

I mean, if FDA-approved is generally the standard for "what's OK to eat" in the US, then why is this ingredient/chemical any different? Is it actually harmful?
 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Aug 5, 2004
5,323
29,828
Catskill Mountains
Well the restaurants were not bad, but it wasn't great, although they do cook damn good steaks. I was mostly clowning about packaged foods from the grocery stores in the UK. Most of it taste so bland. ~snip~

Heh, how about Patak's Brinjal relish (that spicy eggplant stuff)? That on some chickpeas and quinoa sure wakes me up fast... I hope its ingredients are properly on the label, it sure tastes like what it says it is. :D

Anyway too late to switch out of it now, I'm long since hooked on it as part of a combo to break the monotony of steel cut oats and whatever (apples, raisins, cinnamon). I must go through a jar of that stuff a month. Patak's loves me.
 

Happybunny

macrumors 68000
Sep 9, 2010
1,752
1,351
It's not much better here in the Netherlands, we have a TV program which every week puts a product under the stoplight.

It started in 2009 and at the time the makers thought that it would only last for about two seasons, but the situation was so bad that it is still going.:(

http://keuringsdienstvanwaarde.kro.nl
 

Eraserhead

macrumors G4
Nov 3, 2005
10,300
10,370
UK
Well the restaurants were not bad, but it wasn't great, although they do cook damn good steaks.
I think you probably went to the wrong restaurants. There are plenty of nice ones. If you went for Indian food it would wipe the floor of anything in the US.

I was mostly clowning about packaged foods from the grocery stores in the UK. Most of it taste so bland.
Probably because you avoided the posh ones, and because the cheaper ones are less overloaded with salt than in the US ;).
 

Shrink

macrumors G3
Feb 26, 2011
8,914
1,596
New England, USA
True libertarians don't buy prepackaged cheap meals, they cook their own.
Oh, those "true libertarians", the truly great among us. And they ALL abjure all short cuts...such role models!

You mean they're cannibals??? :eek: The horror, the horror!
Proprietor: "We don't serve Black people here."

Black Customer: "That's OK, I don't eat them"



Vaudeville is not dead...:p
 

LizKat

macrumors 603
Aug 5, 2004
5,323
29,828
Catskill Mountains
I'm waiting for the authorities to find crack cocaine in Red Bull.....

Seriously, though, the one thing that I have noticed since I moved to the UK 20 years ago is a willingness on the part of business people in all types of work and at all levels to act like con artists. In the UK it's not 'Buyer beware' but 'Screw the buyer'.
I hardly think that attitude is limited to the UK. There was just a Class 1 recall of 8.7 MILLION POUNDS of beef from a northern California company "because it processed diseased and unsound animals and carried out these activities without the benefit or full benefit of federal inspection."

USDA notice of beef recall 2014 Feb 8

That's a lot of cattle. Maybe they turned up evidence of at least some downed or sick cows having gone through the line and couldn't trace them to specific boxes of final product so they recalled the whole week's worth of production. A class 1 recall is the most severe category; per USDA language "This is a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death."

The thing that might bother one the most about that recall notice (dated February 8, 2014) is this: "The products were produced Jan. 1, 2013 through Jan. 7, 2014 and shipped to distribution centers and retail establishments in California, Florida, Illinois and Texas."

So a month had already gone by. How much of this recalled meat had been consumed in those states, or sold on to establishments in other states in the course of a month?

As far as I'm concerned, so much for the US government thinking to delegate even more responsibility for inspections to the producers. I'm not sure how full-on libertarians square their desire to have government keep out of things with a (presumed) desire to eat wholesome food.
 

VulchR

macrumors 68020
Jun 8, 2009
2,329
10,250
Scotland
I hardly think that attitude is limited to the UK....
Agreed, but it is prominent in the UK and far more noticeable than the US. For instance, the jackass who sold phony explosive detectors to countries all over the world was from the UK (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-23768203). Most British people are honest, but in every aspect of life here there are those who just plain cheat and are proud of it.
 

vrDrew

macrumors 65816
Jan 31, 2010
1,317
11,832
Midlife, Midwest
Its an interesting, but not altogether surprising, story.

Food safety and purity falls squarely at the Nexus of Government vs. Free Market. Should the Government (which presumably has different goals than profit-making business) be responsible for ensuring food (and other products) are exactly as advertised?

Or should the free-market take care of this function? Does the loss of consumer confidence that follows the discovery of contamination provide enough of an incentive for business owners to maintain universally high standards?

Obviously the answer to the second question is: No. There have been too many stories over the millennia for us gullible humans to trust implicitly in the goodness of our fellow man. And I think you could make a very good case that here in the United States - the center of international capitalism - that Government regulation and oversight (The FDA, USDA, NHTSA, etc.) has been instrumental in saving literally millions of lives through a combination of standards, inspections, and regulation. I think we can rely on Government to make sure our food is safe.

The second part of the equation, however, also has to be that of consumers themselves. And here I think British consumers have failed themselves. In my experience, too often British consumers simply do not demand the level of excellence their American cousins do. It may be the experience of scarcity and rationing from the post-war era; hundreds of years of cultural subservience to the upper classes; or something else entirely. But I see British people putting up with dreadful service on trains; filthy supermarkets; and badly run restaurants (for example) in a way that few Americans would stand for.