Canned Food

Reporter: Rodney Lohse

Canned food there's unlikely to be a pantry In the country that doesn't have some type of tinned fruit or vegetable stashed inside. But unlike fresh fruit and vegetables you don't really get the chance to inspect what you're buying until you take the top off. Legislation has been introduced to take some of the guess work out of using tinned food and a percentage of what's food and what's water must be on the label. But getting value for money is still very much hit and miss.

Every tin, jar and tube of food you buy must be labelled with the percentage of fruit or vegetable inside and it's generally a lot lower than people think.

On average, cans contain between fifty and sixty per cent solid food. The rest is juice or water with some salt and sugar for good measure, it all of a sudden makes your convenient can quite costly.

Author, Esta Hammond is an expert money saver and runs the website easywaystosavemoney.com.au, one of her main tips is to buy seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables and to stay away from cans.

"It's shocking you look at something like this herb for example but when you read the labels these can be anywhere from 40 to 60 per cent herbs even though it may look full of herbs", said Esta.

We've selected more than 60 cans and jars of fruit and vegetables randomly from supermarket shelves to see if they really contain the percentages of fruit and vegetables they claim.

In total 30 per cent of the cans we tested failed but others were quite generous.

When it came to tinned peaches the best was Aldi with 70 per cent peaches an extra 95 grams.

The worst, Coles Smart buy which was 53 grams under. For apricots the best was SPC and the worst was Goulbourn Valley. For asparagus, Trident was the worst, Edgell the best giving more than stipulated on the label. For fruit salad, Goulburn Valley was hit and miss one under one over its labelled amount. For tinned tomatoes Woolworths and Aldi both came in under and interestingly almost every tin had a different number of tomatoes inside

For pineapple, Aldi was the worst Coles the most generous but look at this, even in the best case you take out the water and your paying $3.49 for 522 grams of pineapple and you can buy a fresh one for $3.00 and with the skin off and core out you get 676 grams.

The companies that came under the bar say in their defence any shrinkage must have happened after the product was canned which is no excuse. For Esta, the one in three fail rate was sobering.

"If they're stating that they have a certain percentage of fruit or vegetables on their tins then that is what they should be doing", said Esta.

Mal Bartlett works for the National Measurement Institute and over the past 30 years he's seen a short measure or two .but he says under the legislation his team only checks the total contents of a tin and make sure it's matching the grams on the label.

"The majority of cases tend to be a lack of compliance programs put in place to ensure that they are delivering correct measurement. It's very rare that you would find someone deliberately taking advantage of their customers. When we go to test a line we don't just test one product, one can of a line, we'll do 12 packs normally and out of those 12 they must average the correct weight or measurement and no packs can be more than five per cent short", said Mal.

If they do find a discrepancy there can be some hefty fines, but who's checking the claims on the labels about how much is actually solid food content. No one it would seem - the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and food authorities in each state are supposed to police this but at best they act on complaints and despite one finding against a cereal maker that was skimping fruit in its breakfast cereal, it's a law the food police are ignoring at our expense.

"How much extra money are they making if they're just cutting off 10% off every single one of their tins, that's a lot, that adds up to.]

Peaches

Goulburn Valley 1.40% 9.00 grams

SPC 12.20% 59.25 grams

Weight Watchers 5.50% 13.00 grams

Coles Smart Buy 11.10% 53.50 grams (worst)

Woolworths Select 9.60% 55.00 grams

Aldi - Sweet Valley 19.50% 95.25 grams (best)

Apricots

Goulburn Valley 9.40% 50.00 grams (worst)

SPC 21.20% 92.75 grams (best)

Coles Smart Buy 4.00% 19.50 grams

Coles 0.70% 3.50 grams

Woolworths Select 8.50% 43.60 grams

Aldi - Sweet Valley 11.00% 51.00 grams

Asparagus

Trident 16.80% 43.00 grams (worst)

Edgell 6.30% 14.00 grams (best)

Coles 5.00% 12.00 grams

Woolworths Select 5.00% 12.00 grams

Aldi - New Season 5.80% 13.50 grams

Fruit Salad

Goulburn Valley 8.90% 58.00 grams (worst)

SPC 2.40% 12.00 grams

Golden Circle 29.00% 145.00 grams (best)

Coles Smart Bu 0.40% 2.50 grams

Woolworths Select 14.30% 82.00 grams

Aldi 5.40% 26.25 grams

Tomatoes

Ardmona 19.7% 45.00 grams

La Gina 35.41% 85.00 grams (best)

Coles Smart Buy 13.33% 32.00grams

Coles 2.00% 5.00 grams

Woolworths Select 17.50% 42.00 grams (worst)

Aldi - Carloni 10.80% 26.00 grams

Pineapple

Golden Circle 0.40% 2.25 grams

Coles 8.88% 43.25 grams (best)

Woolworths Select 1.60% 4.00 grams

Aldi - Sweet Valley 23.42% 141.00 grams (worst)

Spaghetti

Heinz 15.10% 35.00 grams

SPC 4.70% 10.00 grams

Coles Smart Buy 11.90% 20.00 grams (best)

Woolworths Homebrand 27.59% 56.80 grams (worst)

Corn

Edgell 5.9% 15.40 grams

Coles Smart Buy 6.10% 16.00 grams

Mushrooms

Windsor Farms 19.60% 13.00 grams

Edgell 16.80% 13.00 grams

Coles 38.90% 30.00 grams

Woolworths Select 37.50% 33.00 grams

Tuna

John West 5.20% 15.50 grams

Sirena 7.70% 23.25 grams

Coles Smart Buy 5.30% 14.75 grams

Coles 0.50% 1.75 grams

Beetroot

Edgell 22.00% 110.00 grams

Coles 11.90% 59.75 grams

Responses

Coca Cola Amatil, Goulburn Valley, SPC, Ardmona brands.

SPC Ardmona product specifications ensure that all our containers are filled with fruit at or above the percentage listed on the label when processing begins. A very small percentage of the fruit is transferred to the fruit juice during processing. The fruit juice is part of the product that consumers buy and the fruit in the juice is lost if the juice is drained and discarded.

Aldi

The information supplied by Today Tonight regarding drained weight analysis of ALDI's exclusive brand canned fruit and vegetable products has been reviewed by Silliker - an independent analytical laboratory.

First and foremost, drained weight is not a definitive measure of the fruit or vegetable content in a canned product, it is only an indication.

The percentage declared on the ingredients list is determined based on the weight of solid foods and liquids at the time of sealing the can - before thermal processing occurs. This is a valid method for declaring the percentage of characterising ingredients, in line with the Food Standards Code.

Due to the long potential shelf life of canned products and thermal processing techniques, migration of moisture from the solid fruit or vegetable components to the brine or juice component will impact product ratios. This is particularly the case for products packed in their own juice - such as the pineapple and whole tomatoes tested.

Asparagus is predominantly made up of water, so when combined with liquid in the can - there can be a slight percentage of water that seeps out from the solid portion. This happens to different degrees depending on the time of season and weather conditions. This inconsistency is accounted for by increasing the minimum drained weight accordingly.

ALDI's suppliers check the fill and drained weights of its canned fruit and vegetable products throughout the production process - at a frequency of every few cans. Scales are also checked at the commencement of each production run.

QLD Office of Fair Trading

Food labelling standards are the responsibility of Food Standards Australia and any queries regarding the ingredients or nutrition information included on food labels should be referred to Food Standards Australia.

The net weight and measure of goods is the responsibility of the National Measurement Institute and any queries relating to the net weight of packaged food should be referred to the National Measurement Institute.

The Office of Fair Trading can, however, receive consumer complaints regarding false or misleading representations made about products.

Under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) it is unlawful for a business to make false or misleading representations about goods when supplying, offering to supply or promoting those goods.

A business must not make false or misleading representations about the standard, quality, value, grade, composition or quantity of goods.

The maximum criminal penalty for breaching the false and misleading representation provisions of the ACL is $220,000 for an individual and $1.1 million for a body corporate. Civil penalties of the same amount apply.

For more information on the Australian Consumer Law visit www.consumerlaw.gov.au

To report suspicious business activity or make a complaint about a trader, visit www.fairtrading.qld.gov.au or call 13 QGOV (13 74 68).

Windsor Farms

Today Tonight Canned Vegetable Story

Mushrooms in Butter Sauce. Drain Weights vs Declared Weights.

Response to Today Tonight story on canned vegetable; percentage declared v's drain weights. Results are showing drain weights below the stated 35% as per the ingredient declaration

.

The Australian Food Standards Code requires the characterising ingredients to be declared as the percentage of the ingoing weight. In Mushrooms in Butter Sauce, the characterising ingredients are Mushrooms & butter; as stated on our label in the ingredient declaration; Mushrooms (35%), Butter (0.5%).

In Windsor Farm Mushrooms, there is a minimum of 35% mushrooms added when the products are made. During the cooking process, the mushrooms break down and become part of the sauce, making it difficult to distinguish between mushrooms and sauce, resulting in a lower drain weight.

When the product is made; the first 5 batches have up to 40% mushrooms, with a minimum of 36% mushrooms being added at all times. This is done as our experience with this product shows that the first couple of batches do experience a higher than normal loss of mushroom pieces due to the time it takes to get the line settled down.

We are happy to provide a copy of the batch sheet to confirm the Mushroom content in the product formulation which ensures compliance with the product specification & label declaration.

Windsor Farm have never mislead consumers and always adhered to the Australian Food Standards Code. We are an honest and proud Australian owned company, manufacturing quality Australian made products.

Please do not hesitate to contact either myself or our QA Manager for any further information.

Edgell

220 g Mushrooms in Butter Sauce.

Characterising ingredient percentage - 35% mushroom

The Australian Food Standards Code administered by FSANZ requires the characterising ingredients to be declared as the percentage of the ingoing weight. This enables a consumer to make an informed choice regarding product content and value. For this product both the mushrooms and the butter are considered to be characterising.

We have reviewed the product recipe and manufacturing criteria for the amount of mushrooms included and declared. The quantity of sliced mushrooms included is a minimum of 35% as per the label declaration however during the cooking process the mushrooms, especially the flat type that provide most of the flavour, break down and become part of the sauce. Consequently the production specification is that there must be a minimum of 23% of mushroom remaining after cooking. The remainder is incorporated within the sauce.

Inspection of the batching and post process test records confirm compliance of the product manufactured with the specification.

In fact the initial batches for any production run include additional mushrooms to counteract the breakdown effect where a higher than on normal loss of mushroom pieces occurs.

Woolworths

Woolworths takes it's obligation to accurate labelling extremely seriously. As such, we regularly test our private label canned products to ensure they are tested against internationally recognised methods such as the Association of Official Analytical Chemists (AOAC) methods for drained and net Weight.

Any tests not conducted to these standards can understate the amount of content in the can.

Conducting random tests we have found our Select canned Whole Peeled Italian Tomatoes and Homebrand canned Spaghetti in Tomato Sauce to actually exceed the stated content described on the label.

Our results on the Select canned Sliced Mushrooms in Butter Sauce are so far inconclusive but the nature of mushrooms means they can break down and form part of the sauce. This is clearly stated on the label.

We are continuing to investigate, however, and if there is an issue we will immediately withdraw the product from sale.

If Today Tonight is willing to share with us their results we would be happy to thoroughly investigate these particular claims.

Coles

The Coles products you've identified meet Australian food standards, which require tinned foods to display either the minimum percentage weight, or actual percentage weight. The Coles products in question are labelled with actual percentage weight displays.

"With regards to the Smart Buy peaches, all cans are filled with a set minimum weight of peaches, equal to 58% of a standard 825 g can. However, due to natural product variation, there may be more or less peaches added to the can to meet that minimum weight. This means that more syrup may be added to some cans (as all cans are filed to the top). This in turn means some cans may end up weighing more than 825g, which would see the overall fruit percentage drop. But customers are not getting less fruit, just a bit more syrup.

"In terms of the mushrooms in butter sauce, the cans are packed with 35 percent mushrooms. The difference in percentages you found is explained by the fact that the product is cooked in the can, so some of the mushrooms dissolve into the sauce."