04 March 2011

Grocery shopping: Don't let yourself be fooled

Men's Health Magazine No. 12-2010

How do those who, by their occupation, know more about the tricks of sellers and the origin of products on the shelves than others go to the store? We decided to find out this empirically and offered Dmitry Yanin, chairman of the Board of the International Confederation of Consumer Societies, to give us a master class on going to the supermarket.


– At the end of the 80s, our confederation had a slogan: "Russians will learn how to choose a president only when they learn how to choose sausage," Dmitry says, taking a cart and inspecting the rows of shelves. – Unfortunately, there are still problems with sausage - the requirements for labels are terribly outdated: even knowing what to choose, it is impossible to understand what kind of product is in front of you.

Yanin and I are doing a simple experiment. He (a family man, has children) goes on his usual hike through the capital's supermarket, and we peek and record comments.

Right at the entrance there is a showcase with fruits.

– There is one piece of advice on apples: try to buy only domestic ones until November. They are guaranteed to be of fresh harvest, that is, tastier and healthier. And then switch to imported ones.

Since it happens in October, we are going on a search. Chile, South Africa, France… Finally, in the far corner we come across a separate variety with the proud name "Glory to the winner". While Dmitry puts "Glory" after "Glory" in a bag, I notice that our fruits are somehow noticeably scarier than foreigners, but I formulate the question politely:

– Is it okay that foreign ones look too beautiful, like wax ones, or what? – I take an apple in my hand, which could easily tempt a couple of Eves.

– And this is wax, they are rubbed with it. But there is no need to be afraid of this, no harm. However, it is impossible to understand how fresh such apples are: they will look great in 8-10 months, while inside they will be loose and tasteless. You can ask for an incision or, if you already trust the seller, just ask when the apples arrived. But for the green salads, I'm just offended...

We turn to the showcases with greenery.

– No, it's great that now you can buy green salads throughout the year, but according to some brands, there is a suspicion that they are simply packaging foreign products, and this is a fraud. It is unpleasant when they lie to you, indicating the country of production that does not correspond to reality.

– Are foreign products worse than ours?

– I would like it to be so, but more often the opposite is true. Those who talk about the quality of Russian food, for some reason believe that factory directors or farmers solve their problems with inspections differently than they do with traffic cops. In fact, with our level of corruption, there is no special trust in the Russian regulatory authorities. In favor of imports, at least the fact that these products have been tested not only here, but also in countries where quality is strictly monitored – in Europe, the USA. This is especially important for all types of meat and fruit vegetables. You can be sure that the cow was not stabbed with anything criminal... By the way, our people check them all the time – if you look at the reports, Russian inspectors do not get out of business trips to factories in Brazil, America.

– What about GMOs?

– Their harm has not been proven, excessive consumption of salt, sugar and fats is much more dangerous. That's the real problem. At the same time, in Russia, according to the law, it is not necessary to write the exact sugar and salt content on labels, and labeling about GMOs is necessary.

Butter, juices and pickles

Yanin puts a leaf salad in the cart and goes to the butter.

– I advise you not to overpay for the brand of olive oil. Chain stores often have their own brands of the same name, so I'll take just such an oil. The seller has signed a good direct contract, and it also helps us to get a normal product at a good price. Of course, if you don't like the taste, you can look for a more pleasant one, but it's pointless to overpay for the inscription "Made in Crete" just like that.

Ahead stands a pyramid of juice packets in the best traditions of Soviet gastronomies. Special offer – two packages for the price of one.

– A lot of money has been spent to position juice as a useful product, and it is not. Do you remember the video where the girl drank 2 liters of juice in one fell swoop? But this is 200 g of sugar, that is, 5 of its daily norms. But if we talk about special deals in general, then you can and should buy goods on them: there is no catch here, the only minus is that, as a rule, a person, seeing a shock price, takes more than he needs, and consumes this stock much faster. This is the law of psychology.

After passing the juices, we go past the pickles.

– We bypass these shelves: most cucumbers in cans are China. So what if it says "Made in Russia"? Cucumbers themselves are supplied from China in fresh or already pickled form, in large containers, and here they are simply packaged. To be honest, there are questions about the product supervision system in China. One melanin scandal is worth something (300,000 babies were affected, six of them died as a result of eating food with toxic additives. – Approx. MH)! If they add plastic to milk for the sake of revenue, realizing that it can go to infant formula, then what can they do with cucumbers, tomatoes?..

Here we just come to the window with salt, which bears the unofficial nickname "white death" (the supermarket is generally quite a dangerous place).

– Russia is one of those countries that are in the zone of natural iodine deficiency, and iodine is needed for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. In other similar places, for example, in Switzerland, this problem was solved – they simply banned the sale of non-iodized salt. In our case, the addition of iodine is left to the discretion of the manufacturer. After Chernobyl, this led to the fact that children with iodine deficiency absorbed radioactive iodine faster. Nothing has changed since then, this example has not taught anything.

– And in countries with iodized salt, you can't buy ordinary salt at all?

- Yes. The exception is Lithuania. There people traditionally like to make homemade pickles, and some consider ordinary salt more suitable for these purposes. Especially for them, non-iodized salt is sold in hardware stores, ostensibly for sprinkling tracks.

It is curious that iodized and ordinary salt are displayed in this store at the same price.

Next to them, also exiled to the lower shelf, are bags of flour. Yanin stares intently at the compositions written in small print:

– It's the same story with flour: for more than 60 years in the USA, Great Britain, Canada, in more than 50 countries in total, all flour that goes to baking bread and selling is enriched with iron, folic acid, vitamins. So that people with low incomes also receive the necessary micronutrients. Simple and convenient. We have the same… I'm afraid that none of the products that are here have these substances in their composition. So… They just added ascorbic acid, there is no iron here. Well, even though there is B1 and B12, we will take this flour.

Cereals and cereals

If you have to look for information about useful substances on flour almost with a magnifying glass, then the cereal boxes on the next shelf just shout about their values. However, Yanin turns one such package in his hands with a very skeptical look:

– This product wants to look useful, and moms get the impression that it is a good alternative to porridge. In fact, 30% of this pack is pure sugar. "Snickers" consists of 50% sugar, but no one would think of it as a healthy product, and flakes are all covered with phrases about the content of calcium, vitamins and cereals, which is confusing. We are trying to get them to at least prohibit the portrayal of cartoon characters and information about children's promotions, which kids are so greedy for.

We, who are greedy for a healthy composition, begin to break through the boxes in search of such.

– How much sugar is there? It says only "carbohydrates", and it is impossible to understand how many of them are sugar. Russia is one of the few countries where the label does not indicate how much sugar is in the product. So it remains to be judged by the packaging design. These ones look more strict... Exactly, it says: "Does not contain sugar," and we'll take them.

With cereals, the usual picture this year is that there is no buckwheat, so we take buckwheat flakes.

– By the way, everyone noticed that buckwheat is the leader in price growth in 2010. And do you know who took the second place? Potatoes: it has grown from 12-15 rubles per kilogram in January to almost 30. Vodka has risen in price the least – by only 4%. Apparently, in order not to interfere with people pouring grief from the more expensive buckwheat.

But instead of liquid bread, we go for ordinary bread.

Bread, baby food

– For many old people, bread is an indicator of whether life is getting better or worse. When the price of wheat and flour rises, but the authorities do not allow the price of bread itself to rise, manufacturers are looking for ways to reduce costs – they add cheaper and lower-quality flour varieties, use more food additives. Such bread is stored worse, moldy faster, and it is better not to take it. Outwardly, it is impossible to distinguish such a bread, but know that most often it is the cheapest and most popular bread.

– I would also not advise buying bread that is not sealed in a bag or already sliced. The fewer operations were done with bread and the fewer hands touched it before you bought it, the better. All touches are a danger of bacteria, and we usually eat bread "raw". For myself, I will take bread from coarse flour with bran.

From the delicious–smelling bread department, we get into another fragrant section - coffee.

– You can treat McDonald's in different ways, but it is useless to argue with the fact that it is a powerful technological machine that carefully selects its partners. When there is no normal quality control at the country level, you can rely on the control of such companies. So I buy myself ground coffee, which is used in McDonald's – "Paulig". You can buy instant, but it's pointless to evaluate it by smell – it doesn't smell like coffee, but a flavor that is injected into the jar before it is sealed.

While I'm thinking about the meanness of coffee producers, we turn to baby food.

– That's the biggest shame. Do you see a jar of mashed potatoes "From 4 months"? We turn it over and read in small print: "WHO and Nestle support exclusively breastfeeding up to 6 months." That is, they only report in small and from behind that the World Health Organization does not recommend such a diet until the baby is six months old, and before that he must be fed breast milk. To reach your consumer a couple of months earlier is millions of dollars. We need to ensure that this does not happen in our country. At one time there was a scandal in Africa when, due to too intrusive advertising of baby food, mothers stopped feeding themselves. They decided that artificial mixtures, which they diluted with unboiled water, were more useful.

Our trolley passes the station "Ready salads" without stopping:

– Buying food is always a risk, and the more manipulations have passed with the product, the higher the danger that some bad changes have occurred with it at some stage – either E. coli has been introduced, or something else. And in general: everything that is packaged directly in the store can be a way to sell expired products. In addition, salads quickly deteriorate and in our country they are traditionally prepared with mayonnaise, according to the consumption of which Russia is in the first place, and mayonnaise is just pure fat. I don't want to see on our streets one day what we see on the streets of the south of the USA today.


Dmitry critically examines the shelves:

– We have a very small selection of low-fat natural yoghurts. Most dairy products – with added sugar, dyes, flavors. According to the technical regulations for milk and dairy products, there should be no unnatural flavors and dyes in children's products, but they are in the same "Rastishka". And if you ask them for clarification, they will say that this is actually a product for adults. They think we're idiots.

– In order not to spoil your eyesight by reading out what they write in small print, it's better to buy natural white dairy products without sugar. I'll take the usual cottage cheese and one percent kefir – economically, tasty and healthy. In Russia, according to the Ministry of Health and Social Development, unbalanced nutrition accounts for 12.9%, and excess nutrition accounts for 12.5% of mortality. In total, more than 25% of the loss of human resources is due to the fact that we eat poorly and incorrectly. This exceeds the losses from alcohol.

We are just approaching the wine and vodka department.

– Beer companies accustom us to the taste of beer, which is convenient for them – it is stable and cheap. It is easier for them to produce it, but it is an unnatural taste and, apart from intoxication, such beer does not give anything. Some fans of German and Czech beer compare the taste of Russian brands with the taste of urine, but this is already a distortion. Of course, there is also good beer, but it costs like wine, and buying beer at the price of wine is somehow unreasonable. That's just a special offer for white Italian dry wine, and we take it. As for water, it is better to take the one that is produced close to you, because if water is produced far away, it cannot be cheap, and if it is cheap, it is suspicious.

Chicken and meat

Finally, on the way to the checkout, we stop for meat.

– Chicken is the cheapest source of protein, and we will buy it, but we will do it only now, before leaving. Because if the meat is infected with salmonella (and the probability is 1 to 10), it is better that it remains as chilled as possible. If we put it in the basket at the very beginning, then while we walk, the bacteria will multiply and get on other food, and if the bacteria leave the chicken during heat treatment, then, for example, from the salad, which is eaten raw, they will not go anywhere. For this reason, it is better not to put chicken next to fruits, vegetables and herbs. It is better to put it next to the chilled meat and fish, which we will also take at the end. By the way, since October 1, it has finally been forbidden to sell frozen fish with more than 5% ice in its packaging, but since it is difficult to visually distinguish 5 from 15%, it is better to take chilled and not pay for frozen water until the inspectors withdraw ice-free products from sale. And then until recently, some manufacturers magically turned out 2 kg of fillets from 1 kg of fish.

It is better to take sea fish – there is more iodine in it. Unfortunately, in Russia, when the consumer basket is calculated, the fish in it is counted at the rate of 43 g per day. This is extremely small, but it allows our authorities to say that the basket costs about 2,000 rubles a month, which, in turn, allows us to assume that only 19 million people in Russia live below the poverty line.

It's just time to give money to us – they reached the cash register. When the products and the receipt were in our hands, it turned out that the same wine, for which we bought a special deal, instead of 380 rubles. it cost 589.

– It happens that the promotion is written on the price tag, but has not yet been entered into the system, let's go check it out, – Yanin rushes to the wine department.

Everything turned out to be much more banal – next to the special price tag, there was no mention of the wine to which he belonged. More precisely, there was a wine of the same manufacturer, but only of a different variety. Here is such a "mistake", and then in a series of purchases you will not notice the extra 200-300 rubles.

– The best advice in this situation is to train your brain and, while typing purchases, mentally add up their prices in order to know exactly the final figure and not fall for tricks. However, we took the wine anyway, as a keepsake, so as not to get caught again.

– So what about the sausage on which to learn to choose presidents?

– Yes, it's better to forget about her at all. The sausage group itself has undermined its credibility through the use of strange components. There is a lot of fat, salt and temptations for manufacturers, adding something bad to save. I understand that the product is national, but it is another bad habit that it is time to get rid of long ago. As well as condensed milk, stew, dumplings and sausages. And, by the way, no GOST and PCT are not helpers here – the worst product always has the best papers. And we rarely choose the president, so now this product looks not like food, but like an expensive household appliance – the same refrigerator.

The buyer's Mantra

  1. Do not pay attention to certificates, GOST standards and PCT. This will not protect against cheating.
  2. While the state control over food is weak, rely on the internal inspection systems of large chains of stores and food chains. The volume of their purchases allows you to work directly with the manufacturer, which reduces the risk of running into a fake. Besides, they watch their name.
  3. In season, buy domestic fruits and vegetables. Out of season, do not be afraid to buy beautiful fresh fruits. The problem of nitrates is overblown. Vegetables look good because they are grown on hydroponics.
  4. Do not buy what is packed in the store – often an illiquid is sold in this way.
  5. Don't look so much at the presence of GMOs as at the content of salt, sugar and fat.
  6. Buy simple products – the more additives, the more harmful will be in your plate. Chilled meat, natural yogurt, plain water are clearly less dangerous than cutlets, fruit yogurt with pulp and juice.
  7. During special promotions, carefully compare the product description on the price tag and on the label to make sure that the price is reduced for this particular product.
  8. You don't have to pay for a product that you accidentally ruined in the supermarket. For example, I dropped a bottle of wine from the shelf.
  9. If possible, buy halal or kosher meat: strict requirements imposed on him, and the fact that by violating them, a person deceives God, is an additional guarantee of the quality of the product.
  10. Add up to yourself the prices of products in the cart to insure against fraud at the checkout.
  11. You have the right not to hand over the bag to the luggage room. Moreover, no one is responsible for it there.

Portal "Eternal youth" http://vechnayamolodost.ru04.03.2011

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