Feature

Germany: Deliberately deceiving consumers

When is a fruit not a fruit? When you’re buying it in a German supermarket.

Stefan SauerFrankfurter Rundschau

When is a fruit not a fruit? When you’re buying it in a German supermarket, said Stefan Sauer. In the secretive world of the German food industry, the words on a label can mean the opposite of what they mean in ordinary conversation. “Fruit yogurt can be entirely fruit-free.” A product marketed as caviar can have no fish eggs in it. And it’s perfectly legal to sell as “potato salad” a product composed of less than 20 percent potatoes. The labels on foods are governed by “principles hatched in secret that no layperson knows, let alone understands”—guidelines that were written by the food industry. The only way a consumer can figure out what is in a food item is to squint at the tiny print of the ingredient list. That’s where you can discover, for example, that the calf-liver sausage you just bought is devoid of liver and devoid of veal, and instead made almost entirely of pork. This is not only a crime against the German language, but also a betrayal of the consumer—and it’s time for the government to step in. In the governing coalition agreement signed in December, the ruling parties pledged: “Where consumers cannot protect themselves and are overburdened, the state must provide protection and remedy.” We’re waiting.

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