When the picture is better than the food

August 1, 2012 3:13:32 PM PDT
Boxed, frozen, or canned - Americans spend more than 100 billion dollars a year on processed food, more than any other type of food. What's pictured on the packages often looks delicious, so it can be a real disappointment when food doesn't match. Consumer Reports gets lots of complaints!

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

"Whatever comes out of that microwave is a far cry from what was advertised," one person said.

"They make it look appetizing and it's usually not," said another.

"It's never going to look as good as what's on the box," complained another shopper.

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

Consumer Reports' trained 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," Marks said.

Take a package of Tabatchnick Tuscany Lentil Soup that 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.

While 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 the Lean Pockets Pretzel Bread Sandwiches. See the chunky filling on the box? 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," Marks said.

If you spot a product where the food doesn't measure up to the picture, let Consumer Reports know. You can e-mail the information to SellingIt@cro.consumer.org.

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