Sunday, 8 April 2007

"Activism" published April 8

You don’t have to be a school girl working on a science project to become a consumer activist. The recent discovery that there isn’t an ounce of Vitamin C in Ribena has inspired me to tell my own consumer activism story, mainly because no one else will.
I’ve tried to get the media interested but it just doesn’t have the same punch because I’m not a winsome school girl. I’m a hardened media battleaxe so no David and Goliath here. And someone in the newsroom might have had to go to Foodtown to check my story because it is about a biscuit whose label incorrectly gives the kilojoule reading for three biscuits instead of one. I’ve had it confirmed by Arnotts, the manufacturer in an email and everything:
Dear Wendyl,Thank you very much for bringing this to our attention. On SnackrightSultana and Chocolate the number of biscuits per serving should read one, not three. We are in the process of amending the packaging to correct thisoversight. Again, thank you for your getting in touch with us and weapologise for any inconvenience we may have caused.Regards,DragicaConsumer Contact Representative
Inspired by the Ribena story I reactivated my activism and set off to Foodtown to see if the offending packet is still on the shelves five weeks after I received that email. As I entered Foodtown I saw John Campbell outside talking animatedly on his cell phone like a good current affairs show host should on a Wednesday morning.This was a good omen “Channel John!” I told myself. “What would he do?” I asked myself. And there they were. The same packet of biscuits with the energy rating of 208kj per three biscuits instead of the correct 624kj. As I walked home in the rain John was still talking on his cell phone but I could feel his silent journalistic encouragement following me down the road: “Go get’em you go get girl!”
But then it dawned on me that I needed proof. Out came the Herald, the biscuit packet and my camera and one hour later I managed to get a reasonable picture where you could see both the date on the paper and the nutrition panel on the biscuits. Then my husband pointed out that I could have just grabbed the biscuits out of my cupboard and posed them with the paper. Out came the Foodtown receipt. All bases covered.
Some people close to me might suggest that I have better things to be doing than catching Arnotts out with their incorrect labelling. And I would reply that I have a book to finish by the weekend, which any writer knows is exactly when you become obsessed with biscuit labelling. Not to mention the temperature variation from one end of the house to the other and the height of your washing line. Anything to prevent you from sitting at your desk and writing.
There was also the fact that back when I made my first investigation I had been happily munching six of the offending biscuits at a time thinking I was doing about 416 kj [as stated on the label] when instead, in my ignorance I was taking on a massive 1248 kj [as effectively admitted in the nice email from Dragica], which seriously puts your diet out of whack.
Not that I didn’t have my suspicions something was wrong. Apart from the lack of weight loss any idiot can tell that something coated in chocolate is never going to be diet food.
But in my house we trust that people obey laws. My husband said exactly that as I voiced my calorie confusion: “Wendyl it has to be right, they are breaking the law if it isn’t, that’s why we have consumer laws darling.” Note the condescension creeping into the voice here. “That’s why we have the Commerce Commission, the Consumer’s Institute, Fair Go, they’d be mad to take them on.”
Oh, okay, munch munch slap it on the thighs.
And perhaps I would have let it all go if the packaging hadn’t been so directly targeted at people trying to be healthy with its “SnackRight” brand and its Low GI and Made with Real Fruit labels.
That’s when I got angry. Ribena just forgot to put in the Vitamin C. Surely as we struggle through the “obesity epidemic” misleading people who are actually trying to do something about their weight is just destructive.
p.s. My complaint is in with the Commerce Commission. I’m expecting John Campbell and a camera crew to pop around any day.

No comments: