Friday, September 11, 2009

Clashing food coverage at Consumer Reports

Consumer Reports magazine likes to rate supermarkets and chain restaurants, but the food is rarely evaluated on how it was raised or grown. Value is most important. Yet food is treated far differently in Consumer Reports' On Health newsletter, which exposes the dirty details of antibiotics, additives, contaminants and other horror stories.

The magazine's October 2009 issue evaluates store brands under the headlines: "It pays to buy store brands. They often cost less but taste as good." Among other items, two pizzas are evaluated, from DiGiorno and Archer Farms (Target). "Meat lovers might prefer Archer Farms, chock full of pepperoni chunks and slices," the magazine says, without saying whether either pizza uses uncured, preservative-free meat.

The cover article in the magazine's May 2009 issue is on supermarkets: "Shop smart & save big. Our best tips, plus exclusive ratings of 59 supermarkets." A national survey ranks stores on service, perishables, price and cleanliness, but not on the availability of organic products, wild fish, and drug-, hormone, and preservative-free poultry and meat.

The magazine's July 2009 and July 2006 issues rate chain restaurants. The latest report appears under the headlines: "Where to dine well for less. Readers rate food, value & service at 101 chains." But "trained tasters" evaluate steaks on taste and value, not on how the the animals were raised and whether they were given antibiotics, growth hormones and animal by-products.

For example, the $53, 20-ounce strip steak at Morton's The Steakhouse was judged "excellent" in a comparison to three others, including the $22, 14-ounce strip steak at Outback Steakhouse ("very good"). Is the beef grass-fed or grain-fed? Is it free range or was the animal confined in a feedlot and given drugs and growth hormones? We are never told. We don't even find out whether Outback serves Australian beef, which is often grass-fed and free-range.

The magazine's food articles leave many of us hungry for more information. Why do we have to rely on the pricey Consumer Reports On Health newsletter to find out the truth about what is in our food? I'll be passing along some of the On Health reports in future posts.

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  1. These reviews sound like something Elisa Ung would write

  2. That's an insult. I started this blog precisely because Elisa Ung of The Record and many other food writers completely ignore how animals are raised on factory farms and the impact eating food with antibiotics and preservatives has on human health.

  3. Victor, I meant that the reviews done by Consumer Reports remind me of something Elisa Ung would write.

  4. Well, that makes a lot more sense. Thanks for reading.


Please try to stay on topic.