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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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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.

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.

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!