Black Cat

Going not gentle into that middle age.

Misled and Deceived. By Cornflakes.

Filed under: It's Different When I Do It,Nutrition and Diet — 27 January 2008 @ 10:05 pm

My friends Andreas and Eva recently gave me a book, Vorsicht Supermarkt! Wie wir verführt und betrogen werden (“Beware Supermarkets! How We are Misled and Deceived”). It is a wonderful tour through the various departments of a typical supermarket (the authors are describing German supermarkets but the descriptions sound just like the American ones I am familiar with). I chuckled a bit while reading the book, thinking that what they are describing are things that I already know.

Amongst the many examples that the authors discuss is the warning to read the ingredients list instead of just the big print on the front of the package. The words Mit ausgewählten Zutaten (“with carefully selected ingredients”) on the front of a container of Beef Soup could, in the fine-print ingredients list, actually mean:

  • that the soup is 71% wheat noodles,
  • there’s more salt than beef, and
  • that there is a long list of other ingredients like MSG, aroma, hydrogenated fats, maltodextrin, yeast extract and caramilized sugar.

The book asks, “Which of these are the carefully selected ingredients here?”

OK, so I know to read the ingredients list of every product that I buy, because I prefer to eat real foods instead of all the manufactured chemicals that are in so many products nowadays. My friends Andreas and Eva know this, which is why they thought that I would be interested in this book.

I loooove cornflakes for breakfast. I prefer to add a half-teaspoon of sugar myself to the bowl, along with ground flaxseed (Leinsamen) and almonds (Mandeln). I have been looking for another variety since my favorite brand is no longer being produced by the manufacturer.

A couple of weeks ago I bought this box of cornflakes from my friendly neighborhood health-food store. You can read clearly in two places on the front of this package the words Ohne Zuckerzusatz (“without added sugar”). They brag three times on the front that the product is Bio — this implies that the corn was grown without pesticides and other nasty unhealthy ingredients. A stamp from the Öko-Test organization (Öko is short for “ecological”) gives it a sehr gut (“very good”) rating — and you just know that an organization with a name like that wouldn’t lead you astray. Unless you believe the book I mentioned above, which thinks that the Öko-Test people are more interested in whether the ingredients have pesticides, and not concerned enough about whether the product itself is any good. But anyway, the front of the package implies that you can trust that you’re getting real, healthy ingredients.

This morning, after having eaten half the box (over several mornings, not all at once!!!), I happened to look at the fine print on the side of the box:

box of cornflakes

The German ingredient list starts off with ohne Kristallzucker (“without crystalline sugar”). The English list says very specifically “no added sugar”. Then, when you get to the actual list itself, you notice that the second ingredient is Maissirup (“corn syrup“). Um, since when did corn syrup become not sugar? Here’s a German list of various names for sugar, and an English list. Maissirup (corn sugar) is clearly on the list. It’s sugar.

Yeah, yeah, I know that the white crystalline sugar that I add myself is basically the same thing. But it’s different when I do it.

I was misled and deceived. I, who thought I was so clever and educated. I, who forgot to read the list of ingredients before I bought the product. I forgot to pay attention to the very warnings from the book that I listed above: that what is pictured and bragged about on the front of the package may mislead and deceive me about what’s actually inside the package.

Thank you, Andreas and Eva. I’ll re-read the book. I’m sure that there are other things in there that I need to be reminded of.

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