False Advertising

Dear Evergood Fine Foods,

Hi my name is Lisa and I lost 110 pounds through counting calories and regular exercise. I’ve kept the weight off for almost 3 years now and have maintained my healthy lifestyle by counting my calories.

I recently purchased your Louisiana hot links at Costco. Your product appealed to me because there were many sausages in the package that would provide several meals.

The label on the packaging states that a serving size is 2 ounces and that there are 24 servings in the package. The problem with this is that there are actually 15 sausage links in the package and this requires the consumer to calculate the number of calories per serving. I have learned to do this type of calculating but I cannot help but feel that reporting caloric values like this is misleading to shoppers and makes calorie counting much more complicated than it needs to be for people like myself.

It is easy to look at the package, which states 170 calories per serving and assume that one sausage link is 170 calories when in reality the consumer is eating considerably more than that amount in calories.

I enjoyed your product and was very disappointed by the inaccurate Nutritional Information. I think if consumers are confused by the labels they will be less likely to purchase them in the future.

I’ve written about my experience with the misleading calorie count on my website (http://www.110pounds.com) and you are welcome to read it here.

I look forward to your response on this topic.

Signed,

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Lisa’s Note: I sent this email off today to the company. My hope is that they respond to me. If they do provide an explanation I will post it here as well. You can read more about misleading labels here.

I realized my caloric mistake yesterday when I made a sausage link for lunch. I went to add my calories for lunch into My Fitness Pal and was confused as to why it said 1/2 a link was 170 calories.Β  I thought that HAD to be a mistake. I checked the package and sure enough…I’d been calculating my calories incorrectly based on what was on the label. I was pretty upset by that. Sure a few calories off here and there aren’t the end of the world…but at the same time we trust food manufacturers and the FDA to give us accurate information so we can make responsible choices. And that extra 150 calories can add up fast.

26 Responses

  1. I frequently feel frustrated when companies list servings in ounces when they are packaged as something different-how am i to know what that equals? And why create work for your customers? It will be interesting to see how (or if) they reply!

    1. YES! Thank you. I don’t want my food to be WORK. If I’m eating something prepackaged with a label I want it accurate! I don’t want it in ounces. Cheese is like that too and it’s so frustrating.

  2. GAAH frustrating and misleading!

    I have never counted, but I know many people rely on it. this case especially seems deliberately misleading because… come on, how many people would consider half a sausage a serving?

    I hope they reply!

  3. Whew! Thanks for this post! I just had a panic attack because I was worried the chicken sausage I ate was more points than I recorded and I had eaten a hefty lunch!! Thank you for reminding me I need to be more diligent in reading my labels!!! You ROCK!

  4. The FDA mandates what a serving size of a food is. Every food has a set serving size-that’s why you see things like all boxes of cereal give around the same amount (3/4 c or so) as one serving. Depending on the food it gets played with a bit (technically a can of soda is 1.5 servings, because beverages are 8 oz servings, but it’s put as a single 12 oz serving), but overall it’s the FDA that sets what a serving is. The FDA set sausage at 55 g being 1 serving.* It’d be helpful for the makers to also put the info for a full sausage, but the amount given is government mandated.

    *Source: http://books.google.com/books?id=yYeoaeh2XNkC&pg=PA208&lpg=PA208&dq=reference+amount+customarily+consumed+sausage&source=bl&ots=pNcAT80GYK&sig=Dzl5UW8ApJfWTWZLKZF5kONMb-0&hl=en&ei=R2ZcTdC0FYm6sAO3ysXUBQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=4&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=reference%20amount%20customarily%20consumed%20sausage&f=false

    1. (and I read an article about this not too long ago, with someone bothered over something that was clearly a single serving-a drink mix I think?-being labeled as 2 servings I don’t just have weird super knowledge of the FDA πŸ™‚ )

        1. Haha no!
          It was this that I read
          http://consumerist.com/2011/01/one-serving-of-crystal-light-half-of-this-pre-measured-packet.html
          which was just a few weeks ago, so it was still fresh in my head!
          And I read this last year
          http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/06/business/06portion.html
          which goes into things that are totally single servings (like microwave soups in those single bowl things) that are labeled as two and how the FDA is looking at changing things. Because most people aren’t going to think of a 20 oz soda as 2.5 servings (or think that a single sausage is 2 servings!)

  5. Yo go, girl! πŸ™‚ I get so angry with companies that use tricks like this to sell their products under the false impression that they are “low-calorie” or otherwise healthy! Marion Nestle is another big advocate for this cause as well, and you might be interseted in reading her books, “What to Eat” and “Food Politics”.

    p.s. I think you’ll enjoy my post tomorrow about Safeway and their new program to further mislead customers to “nutritious” choices! πŸ™‚

    1. I’ll look for your post tomorrow. It sounds interesting! And thanks for the book recommendations. Adding them to my library list now.

      Honestly if I had known that the sausages I bought at Costco were REALLY over 300 calories each link, I would not have bought them. I would have gotten the Johnsonville Bratwursts we usually get which are 250-270 calories depending on the flavor.

  6. Another product exposed for deceptive labeling! Good for you and THANK YOU for sharing it here.
    If something sounds too good we need to do the math. Your experience reminds me that we need to be mindful of anything we put into our mouths – especially in multi serving packaging.
    I wrote of a similar experience on my blog a few months ago with cereal.

    http://www.keepingthepoundsoff.com/2010/12/do-math.html

    Jane
    Keepingthepoundsoff.com

  7. It looks like Kalin covered my point, but with actual hard information. I think the company will say that the information is accurate (the cals per 2 oz) and the serving size is what is mandated by the FDA. They did change the rules on serving sizes a few years ago to be more realisitc, but there is still a long way to go to close the disconnect between packaging and serving size. For historical reasons, many of the FDA regulations are designed to ensure that we are getting what we pay for, so it could be that the FDA would care more if the product had fewer calories than the label said (or suggested) than the opposite. Their focus is changing with our growing obesity and health issues, but there’s a ways to go.

    I love my oatmeal, but the Quaker package has a big red heart around the “heart healthy serving size” (3/4 cup raw) that gives you 3 g soluble fiber, while the nutrition info is for 1/2 cup raw.

  8. PREACH!!!!!!!!! Yes! I love it! I email companies all the time, so far not about this type of problem, but GEEEZ, that’s a problem! I would have never thought to double check the serving size. You’re a genius!

  9. Thank you for writing to the manufacturer Lisa! I may just follow suit…

    I haven’t been tracking my food as much as I used to and we just bought these sausages at Costco!!! I was making them for breakfast with eggs thinking I was having around a 250 calorie breakfast (I split one in half). It’s partly my fault that I stopped tracking everyday, but darn it, I should be able to look at a package and know how many calories I’m about to eat with out pulling out a food scale and a calculator!

    On a side note, I read your blog everyday – I was SO thrilled to find a fitness/weight loss website that didn’t make me feel like I had to become vegan and run 10 miles a day to be fit. I’ve lost about 20 lbs. (slooooowly) by changing my diet and working out and would like to lose 10 more. Thank you for showing people that you can be fit and healthy while not having to go from one extreme to the other. I read a lot of fitness/weight loss blogs and it seems like there are quite a few that feel “compulsive” to me in a not very healthy way. I think you’ve struck a great balance – so thanks again for sharing with us.

    1. Thanks for writing Candace. I felt similarly when I started reading other blogs and I found myself criticizing what I ate and how much I worked out…I mean a lot of them didn’t seem to have jobs other than going for an “easy” 10 mile run, followed by hot yoga and then blogger meet-ups. I definitely felt like I did not fit in with the rest of them.

  10. I really hate when companies do this. I am so glad you called them out on it. They can at least put a serving size and then the whole sausage calorie information.

    By the way, I seem to missed their response. Did I miss it or have you not posted it yet?

  11. I stumbled across this site as I was searching for a way to get these delicious sausages delivered to my home in Chicago (I used to live in LA and you can’t get this product in the midwest).

    What I noticed immediately upon reading this post is that there aren’t 15 sausages in those packages, there are 12. I bought these at Costco all the time to make jambalaya and I clearly remember the packaging and the sausages are packed in 3 rows of 4. If you look at the picture on this post you can even see that there are 4 visible in the package, and multiplied out you’re not going to get 15.

    So by saying there are 24 servings per package, you can quickly do the math that a serving is half a sausage.

    I scanned the comments figuring someone must have pointed out this mistake but couldn’t find anything, so I guess I’ll be that person.

    Cheers.

  12. Lisa, congratulations on your weight loss and the ability to keep it off.

    In determining the portion size we use the guidelines set forth by the USDA. They require that the portion size be between 67 and 200% of the Reference Amount Commonly Consumed (RACC) for the class of product. For sausage products the RACC is 55 grams. Since these sausages are 4 to the pound each link is more that 200% of the RACC. Therefore we use 1/2 link or 2 ounces as the serving size. I trust this answers your concerns.

    Evergood Sausage Co.

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