Picture vs. product

    Some food bears little resemblance to what’s on the box

    Consumer Reports magazine: September 2012

    We’ve heard your complaints. About a far-from-full carton of frozen Szechuan chicken: “I guess you need two boxes if you want the full serving.” About crackers: “I found crackers 1/4 the size of the one pictured on the box—a shock!” About a turkey dinner with appetizing slices on the box and brown blobs inside: “Outrageous!”

    So we went shopping and bought a cart full of foods you told us look nothing like their pictures, plus others we thought might be candidates. Some products appeared very much as pictured, so you may have bought a single problem package: a carton of mint-chip ice cream with “not one chocolate chip anywhere in the contents! Not one!!” Other products weren’t sold any more, among them Ruffles Beer Battered Onion Rings. The bag boasted a big photo of fried onion rings, which annoyed three readers who opened it to find what unnoticed tiny type revealed: flavored potato chips.

    Still, we found plenty of products whose photographs looked far more enticing than the reality inside. One staffer prepared packages of the nominated foods, and three staffers judged them to be either as pictured, close, or not close. Here we present the not-close contenders. The moral: Don’t judge every product by its picture.

    The description and photo of each product appear sequentially below. Download a PDF of the article as it appeared in the September 2012 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

    Send us your candidates

    We’d love to see more examples of food that bears little resemblance to photos on the package. E-mail them to SellingIt@cro.consumer.org or mail them to Selling It, 101 Truman Ave., Yonkers, NY 10703.

    'Lean' is right. The photo on the Lean Pockets box shows a chunky filling that’s oozing out. In our sample, the pocket was far from full.

    Holey moly. The actual Pepperidge Farm crisps are smaller than shown, have little holes that aren’t pictured, and appear to be coated with less cheese. Scroll down to see the product photo.

    Try to twirl this. The real Banquet pasta has less sauce, the meatballs are smaller and more shriveled, and the spaghetti is in pieces, not long strands. Scroll down to see the product photo.

    Now you see it, now you don’t. Where did those distinct red and green vegetables go? The actual Tabatchnick soup, a New York reader noted, is “brown mush with carrots. You couldn’t even identify individual lentils. Boo hiss.” Scroll down to see the product photo.

    May we have seconds? The Healthy Choice product is shown overflowing from a bowl, but open the box and you realize that’s a really little bowl. In the one sold with the product, the food comes up barely a third of the way to the top. Scroll down to see the product photo.

    Size matters. Some products get away with a blown-up picture by saying “enlarged to show texture.” This Little Debbie snack doesn’t have that disclaimer, yet the real cakes are about half the size shown. Scroll down to see the product photo.

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