/ Food & Drink, Shopping

Are you confused by creative food labels?

Selecting food is no longer as easy as just reading the name on the label – many names might lead shoppers to incorrect conclusions about the foods’ origins or ingredients. Do you know what you’re buying?

Q. Where do Willow Farm chickens come from? A. Not Willow Farm.

In the same vein, Lochmuir salmon doesn’t come from Lochmuir. And you’ve guessed it, Oakham chicken isn’t from Oakham. So what’s going on?

All of these names are inventions by Tesco and M&S and are used to brand their chickens and salmon. The reality is that Willow Farm and Oakham chickens come from farms across the UK and Lochmuir salmon is supplied by several fish farms in Scotland.

Navigating the food label maze

There’s no denying that we are increasingly interested in where our food comes from and it seems that clever branding can help sell products. For me, these names evoke images of farms with chickens roaming freely or salmon swimming in a wild loch.

And there are no rules about using names of specific or made-up locations in product descriptions – other than those with Protected Geographical Status (PGS). Foods such as Stilton cheese, Melton Mowbray pork pies and champagne all have PGS and so have to come from the region or place in their titles.

But creating fictitious locations isn’t the only way consumers can be confused.

Do you know the difference between ‘strawberry flavour’ milk and a ‘strawberry flavoured’ milk, for example? The strawberry flavour can come from artificial flavouring but the strawberry flavoured milk has to contain real strawberries.

Ones to watch out for

Here are some other examples we found when we investigated food labelling for this month’s Which? magazine:

  • Covent Garden Wild Mushroom soup contains only 0.6% dried wild mushrooms but 18% normal mushrooms.
  • Homepride Beef in Ale sauce contains 4% ale, no beef stock and 38% tomatoes.
  • Tesco Mango and Passion Fruit smoothie contains 47% apple juice, 23% mango puree and 4% passion fruit puree.

Which? wants consumers to get the products they think they’re paying for and campaigns for honest claims and clear labelling. Have you spotted other examples of exaggerated, confusing or meaningless claims on food or drinks? If so, leave a comment here and email us details (and even a photo) to foodeditor@which.co.uk.

Are you surprised that places like 'Lochmuir' are supermarket inventions rather than real?

Yes - I'm less likely to buy food with made-up places (53%, 543 Votes)

No - I knew they weren't real but I don't really care (20%, 206 Votes)

No - I knew they weren't real and will steer clear (16%, 161 Votes)

Yes - but I'm not less likely to buy food with made-up places (12%, 123 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,037

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Comments
Profile photo of ArgonautoftheSeas
Member

“Some packs are priced at per 100gm and other packs at per 1Kg.
This makes comparison difficult.” [D]

Dead easy.

Profile photo of ArgonautoftheSeas
Member

“I also support the idea of a minimum text size – I might have to put
my reading glasses on to read the detail but I’d like to be able to read
it comfortably then.”[Pat]

I have a small concealed magnifying glass with me always and
especially useful in supermarkets for the very fine prints.

Member

No mattter what regulations we apply to make things better for the consumer, the manufacturers will just stay one step ahead. They are after all profit orientated and so need to be promoting their product ahead of the competition. The example of Strawberry flavour and Strawberry flavoured is a classic example of confusing the customer. The small “Small print” is often so small that people who are not prepared and dont have a magnifying glass with them are stumped.
What about items that have absolutely no description of contents like for example, freshly made bread from the bakers.

Profile photo of GA
Member

I am not worried about obviously made-up names. There was a joke on TV about “Dragon” sausages having to include a disclaimer that they did not contain dragon meat. However, using real names, like “Oakham” can mislead. It is also misleading when product names don’t indicate that the ingredients are bulked up and the flavour overwhelmed by something like apple juice or tomatoes. We need to read the small print – and the small print must not be too small for a middle-aged shopper to need high-magnification reading glasses!

Profile photo of RichardH
Member

So I am paying a subscription of £9.75 per month to enable Which to carry out investigations and report the obvious that supermarkets make up names for their products.

Not only that but the report is severt fails to warn subscribers that Mr Kipling and Aunt Bessie are not real and there are no anchors in Anchor butter.

Member
Conner says:
19 February 2012

Agree whole heartedly

Profile photo of omegafrankie
Member

i am amazed that people cannot see

Profile photo of omegafrankie
Member

Cut off in his prime!

Member

I do so agree about the misleading rubbish on food labels. We are meat producers, and could be organic as we fit all the criteria, but the paperwork to be able to do so is ridiculous. It cost a silly amount to be ‘farm assured’ also, which means virtually nothing. I always have a wry smile at stuff labelled ‘farmhouse’ or ‘farm fresh’, I don’t believe consumers are so naive as to believe my kitchen is any different from any one else’s! Larger print on labels would be helpful. Who would have thought that a pack of suet would contain quite a large amount of gluten?

Profile photo of omegafrankie
Member

I am amazed that people cannot see that many of the names applied to ready meals are simply
marketing inventions. They are prepared foods for goodness sake, they are not going to be called
Romney Marsh Ultimate or Medomsley Road Gourmet, where you can see the join; if you want to buy prepared foods, be prepared to be sold Duck Farm Speciality, etc.., and, do you like it or don’t you? It was made in a factory.And they all are.Get real.

Member
Roger says:
20 February 2012

I think that important information: ingredients, nutritional, cooking instructions should be in a minimum type size and printed black on a white background, I am becoming more and more frustrated trying to read white type face on a blue background or grey on a white background and other equally difficult to read colour combinations.

Member
Karen Evans says:
21 February 2012

My Son has severe allergies and shopping can be a nightmare as so much time is spent reading/searching labels for ingredients and allergy advice. It would make life alot easier if there was standardised labelling for allergy advice – perhaps a certain colour block containing this information so that it is instantly seen when looking at the packaging. I would like to say that in my opinion Tesco has the most informative way of labelling allergy advice, for example, Contains: wheat, gluten, barley; Recipe: no nuts; Ingredients: cannot guarantee nut free; Factory: product made in nut free area, but nuts used elsewhere. As a parent, I can make an informed choice as to whether or not the product is safe for my Son. I get fed up when reading labels which just say “may contain nut traces” as this is such a general comment. 3 cheers for Kinnerton, Fabulous Bakin’ Boys and Harvest Chewee for their “nut free zone” labelling.

Member
Jon Bennett says:
21 February 2012

I hate it that things such as Mayo are priced per millilitre in one package, and per gramme in another (eg squeezy bottle versus glass jar).
It makes it hard to work out which is best value.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

This lack of consistency is ridiculous. For anything with a high water content, the weight in grams will be similar to the volume in millilitres, making comparison easier.

The oil content of mayonnaise means that it significantly less dense than water, but no-one should be eating enough of the stuff, for health reasons, to worry about these comparisons. In my humble opinion. mayo is the most ghastly of all processed foods created by the food industry.

Profile photo of ArgonautoftheSeas
Member

WC, reminds me of a friend who dislikes Hellmann’s
Real with equal passion, self can’t seem to get enough of
it!

But glad to be enlightened as to its negative health
aspects.

Profile photo of ArgonautoftheSeas
Member

Just found out… (highly) saturated fats of palm oil
blended into mayo…. reason enough not to eat
too much of it.

Member
Chris G says:
22 February 2012

I would like to see compulsory labeling on all processed and packaged foods in respect of protein content – an issue for my family.
I would also like an easily visible in respect of foods containing Aspertame.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Plant proteins are not the same as meat and fish proteins because they have a lower amount of the amino acids lysine and methionine. One brand of salted peanuts claimed that contained more protein than roast beef, which is strictly true but the peanut protein is of much less value to the body.

Most people who eat meat and fish consume far more protein than they need, at least in the western world. Vegans need to be more careful because they can only eat what are sometimes known as ‘second class proteins’.

Because of the big differences between types of protein, labelling is not as useful as it might seem.

Foods containing aspartame will show this on the ingredient list. It should be avoided by those with phenylketoeuria, but don’t believe all that quacks claim about it being harmful to everybody.

Profile photo of ArgonautoftheSeas
Member

Yup… had read animal proteins are superior to
plant proteins…. had read too or been advised by
nutritionist Jane 100g per day is quite enough
for an adult.

Profile photo of ArgonautoftheSeas
Member

Aspartame I wd consciously avoid.

Member
Ray Monk says:
22 February 2012

Just read the latest edition of Which about food labelling.For many years now i`ve always wondered is “no added sugar” the same as no sugar added .

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

There are different sugars. Common examples are fructose (fruit sugar), sucrose (table sugar) and glucose (dextrose, the sugar that circulates in our blood). Of the three, fructose is sweetest and glucose the least sweet.

Ignore the crackpots who claim that fructose in fruit juice is better than added fructose, because they are the same. Food containing added sugar is best avoided, but beware of consuming a lot of natural sugar too. Follow NHS advice and restrict the amount of sugar, fat and fat in your diet.

Starch can be very quickly converted to glucose in our bodies, so go for wholemeal bread, flour and cereals rather than processed versions. That means the sugar is delivered over a longer period, which can help avoid diabetes and other health problems. There is no need to go near a health food shop to have a good diet.

Profile photo of wavechange
Member

Sorry I was on automatic pilot, Ray, and did not read your question properly. No added sugar means the same as no sugar added.

Non-fat milk is very different from non-milk fat, so you are right to be suspicious.

Member
GillyGloucs says:
22 February 2012

Think there’s a clear difference between say, Dragon Drops (which clearly neither contain, nor are from dragons) and Lochmui Salmon which I would just assume was a real place. If the manufacturers don’t want to use a real place name then why use one at all? Seems pointless and wouldn’t make me less/more likely to buy the product.

Member
Gumpy and Cynical says:
23 February 2012

Maybe it’s because I’m grumpy and cynical, but I’m not inclined to believe anything I see in an advert. However, if something is called “Lochmuir…” then I must admit I’d be surprised if it wasn’t from Scotland – and pretty irritated that “they can get away with misrepresenting…”. I’m not sure where Oakham is, but it sounds english. But if it was “Longmuir Scottish Salmon”, or “Oakham English Chicken”, then I’d expect the contents to be from Scotland and England respectively.

As for the rest, why was a particular jam plugged as “reduced sugar”? Is it part of the British Psyche that “Reduced Sugar” is more attractive than “More Fruit”?

I’m not really impressed with this investigation into “creative” food labels. I’d much rather that effort was concentrated on the areas where we are being deliberately lied to. This is typically where TV adverts say one thing, but the small print says something else entirely.

Pet peeves include –

Eyelash adverts – “…enhanced in post production”
Hair Care adverts – “…[fred] is wearing a wig”
Self-proclaimed health products – “…MAY assist….”
Use (abuse?) of “TM” where they seem to be used to make deliberately misleading statements – “…contains Active Whiteners(TM)…”, “…uses latest “Smart Wireless Technology(TM)….”

Member
Ian Smith says:
27 March 2012

I understand that carbon footprinting all the thousands of product lines may be prohibitive, it would be nice to see a simple label stating whether any of the contents have been flown in. The carbon footprint of flying versus surface transport is typically 100 times larger. This would be cheap to do. Whilst the current position is not exactly misleading, I do feel that I am not being informed properly. I will avoid buying foods if I even think that they have been flown here.

Member
Letsgetitright says:
30 March 2012

2 things: 1.) Every product should state what a normal serving size is, give the measurement of that serving size and give the nutrient listing for that serving size (what good is it if I know the nutrients for 100g of mayonaise – I don’t know how much fat I’m getting on my sandwich). 2.) It’s time to lable all trans fats in foods! These are what kills you! Look at the labeling in the USA. They have some better ways of labeling.

Member
Malc.Moore says:
9 May 2012

Although food labeling has got better its still got a way to go.If you are buying some frozern Fish e.g.Youngs Cod or Haddock it should say quite clearly how much actual fish is in the product at present its approx 50%per pack.I would like to see 50%Fish clearly displayed on the front of the box.Granted everyone wants cheap food but Micoscopic Labeling on the back of tins Chicken Curry/Chilli-Con – Carne .I want to see the Consumer givern choice;i would prefer to pay a little more or buy a smaller tin or packet/Box for the product i want to eat.I dont like to waste time putting on my specs&using a magnifying glass to read what im buying.The Supermarkets dosnt care about us Seniors they only interested in the bigspending family.Parents should have the right to know what they are buying.At the moment i beleive the Supermarkets are pulling a fast one over the consumer.Years ago it was Garages who pulled a fast one to-day its Supermarkets who are being much worse parents do not have the time to read Microsize Labels.

Member
P&V says:
19 July 2012

Just spotted Botany Creek wine in Lidl, its English! Haven’t looked it up in an Atlas, but I certainly wouldn’t expect to find it in England.

Member
Mel Bryant says:
20 July 2012

Why is it as far as wine goes, British people will drink urine if it bottled with a pretty label and 3 bottles for a tennner. Do people deserve what they get? Are British people too lazy to read the label? So I am not surprised to hear from one of you, that a wine came up in Lidle as English wine, with Botany Bay on the label. Lidle, despite Which’s infatuation with this store, is not likely to care a damn about provenance, most Brits do not know, the Meaning of wordanyway, and if they do, they don’t have it high on their agenda when shopping. The wine with most provenance anywhere in the world is France! The wine under their strict “appellation origine controlle” eg states, where is comes from, how it is grown, the tradition of that area, the grapes permitted in that area, the growers nameand address, and where it is bottled, it is all written on the label. If we cannot be bothered with learning a few French words, then we deserve, the over the top new world wines, syrupy, over alcoholed, wine, with pretty names made up by marketing men, the wine which has no relationiionship to the terroir whatsoever, they are made by chemists to coca-cola-erize the wine industry. Brits are influenced by sweetness characterless with high level of alcohol, just “P**s up material” worst still, is the fact anyone who has put some of their thought into the subject and try’s to help someone with advice, is a boring “wine snob”! How pathetic. Like the politicians we have, we get what we deserve. Mel B

Profile photo of roy81b
Member

I thought Which? subscribers were believed to be sensible! How can they be SO NAIVE to believe whats written on ANY label, its only there to SELL the product. When I was younger, much younger (3-6 years old) I was told that I was found ‘under a gooseberry bush’ although confused I never really believed it!
Lidl and Aldi although much championed by Which?, are showing the other super(profit)markets what it is all about, all still make a profit from their businesses, long may they reign.

Member
Malc.Moore says:
20 July 2012

Lidl & Aldi provide much needed Competition verses the the big Supermarkets There are other small supermarkets providing much needed competition.Unfortunately we do not have stricter Laws like in Germany where the Consumer is not Conned to the extent that we are. In Holland they produce many artificial processed meats so they must be like the UK to Lazy to complain about there Labeling unless its for export only which i do not think is the case.I use to love pies but now never buy them as they contain to much Fat PUKKA PIES the worst at 30%fat.

Member
Mel Bryant says:
21 July 2012

Holland are in my opinion are one of the worst culprits for supplying the world with out of season, Highly processed, chemicalised, force grown un-natural food, taste a tomato grown Holland if you can, any vegetable come to that. I expect the Dutch never to have had a public discussion about GM ingredients-they probably have a european HQ of Dow chemicals, one of the American free trade free raid exploiters of the worlds people and it’s environment based in Amsterdam. Take my advice if you value your internal organs, don-t buy Hollands industrial food. They do not know what organic means!