Recently, popular dishes sold at many supermarkets were the study of Consumer Reports, who sent secret shoppers on a mission: to find out if those foods touted as “fresh” and “organic” were really as healthy as many consumers believe. What they found was surprising!
According to Consumer Reports, the supermarket deli prepared foods section is a $29 billion a year business. Shoppers can pick up lunch or dinner, and all the prep/cooking is done for them – just open it up and enjoy. Because many of these prepared deli foods do not include food labeling like nutrition labels (and currently are not required to), consumers are eating far more sodium, fat, and calories than they realize. Here is a sample of what was learned when Consumer Reports analyzed a few of the more popular choices from six major supermarkets.
Mashed potatoes contained disodium pyrophosphate to preserve color, along with the preservative sodium benzoate. Not typically ingredients most people would add if making mashed potatoes at home.
Would you think eating a piece of meatloaf with a poppyseed dressing would be equal to eating a whole bag of potato chips? Apparently it was with one meatloaf, which for a six ounce serving contained 891 milligrams of sodium.
Tilapia, a fish most consumers would believe to be healthy contained nine grams of fat in a six ounce serving. Of course without a nutrition label, a shopper would have no idea of the fat (or anything else) tilapia contains.
Consumer Reports analyzed the supermarket deli food primarily to learn the amount of saturated fat, calories, and sodium contained in those foods. Surprisingly, many of the deli foods that shoppers believe are made at the store are not actually made on-site – about half were, according to the results gleaned when the secret shoppers quizzed supermarket deli clerks.
What supermarkets are Consumer Reports subscribers happiest with in terms of prepared foods? According to a survey, favorites include Fresh Market, Whole Foods, Costco, Wegmans, and Publix.
While nutrition labels aren’t required on certain foods, we understand the importance of transparency for consumers who want to know what’s in the foods they eat – particularly important for those who need to avoid sodium and saturated fats, or for those with allergies to certain ingredients.
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