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Consumer Reports tests food on the plate vs. picture on the packaging

August 1, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Boxed, frozen, or canned, Americans spend more than $100 billion per year on processed foods. The picture on the packages may look delicious, but it can be much different when the same food on your plate doesn't quite match up.

Walking down the supermarket aisle, you see one mouthwatering photo after another. But how does the food look when you get it home?

"We had a lot of people complain to us about the food that really doesn't resemble the pretty pictures on the box," said Tod Marks, a Consumer Reports senior editor. "So we decided to buy a cartful of products."

Trained Consumer Reports testers evaluated more than three dozen products, everything from broccoli to bacon to sweet treats.

"Some products did appear as pictured. But we found others whose photos didn't come near reality," said Marks.

For example: A package of Tabatchnick Tuscany Lentil Soup shows pretty red and green vegetables. But where are they once you heat the soup?

The spaghetti and meatballs on a Banquet box do look appetizing. But the actual meatballs are smaller and the spaghetti is in pieces, not strands.

And while this barbecue steak from Healthy Choice does look like what's shown on the package, there's less than you'd expect.

"Lean" is right with Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches. The box shows chunky filling. But the pockets Consumer Reports bought were far from full.

So what can you do when your food isn't picture-perfect?

"I suggest you complain to the company, because the worst that can happen is, well, maybe they'll give you an apology. But the best that can happen, you get a free product," said Marks.

If the company in question isn't that interested in your complaint, Consumer Reports is. So if your food doesn't measure up to the photo, you can email Consumer Reports at sellingit@cro.consumer.org.


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