Most of the food products sold at convenience stores that claim to contain fresh strawberries instead contain food additives and not the actual fruit, an investigative report by the Chinese-language Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the Taipei Times) has found.
Capitalizing on the strawberry season, which lasts from December to April, many convenience stores and food producers have launched products that purportedly contain fresh strawberries.
Of the nation’s four major convenience store chain operators, President Chain Store Corp’s (統一超商) 7-Eleven and Taiwan FamilyMart Co (全家便利商店) each sell about 40 products claiming to contain strawberries.
Photo: Liu Hsiao-hsin, Taipei Times
However, none of the products sold at 7-Eleven stores and only two at Taiwan FamilyMart stores actually contained strawberries, while of the 18 strawberry food products sold at Pxmart (全聯實業), only half contained the fruit, the report found.
The products’ ingredients include food additives such as spices, food coloring, thickeners and sweeteners, in addition to other common ingredients, while ingredients related to strawberries are actually derivatives of the fruit, such as syrup, jam or powdered strawberries, it said.
7-Eleven on Friday said that its strawberry products clearly list their ingredients on their labels, adding that none of them contravene the regulations.
Taiwan FamilyMart said that it is normal practice to promote products that are in season and consumers are free to purchase products according to their needs.
Pxmart said that all of its strawberry products contain strawberries, adding that while the fruit might be processed into different forms, its strawberry products are all authentic.
The Executive Yuan’s Department of Consumer Protection Officer Wang Te-ming (王德明) said that labels should be clear, as consumers have the right to know what the products contain.
Consumer Protection Foundation chairman Yu Kai-hsiung (游開雄) said products promoting seasonal fruits should include the fruit, adding that the foundation has long criticized a discrepancy between product names and their contents.
Food additives do not have a serious effect on health, doctors said, but drew attention to the overconsumption of sugar, fats and starch.
The nation’s food labeling regulations are strict, said Chiang Chih-kang (姜至剛), a doctor at National Taiwan University Hospital, adding that as long as the food industry follows the regulations, the public need not worry about acute poisoning or bodily harm.
The consumption of sugar is the main issue, Taiwan Adventist Hospital nutritionist Liu Yi-li (劉怡里) said, as its overconsumption could lead to obesity, a high percentage of body fat, high levels of triglyceride or metabolic syndromes.
Children are likely consume more processed food than vegetables and fruits, National Taiwan University’s Institute of Food Science and Technology professor Sheen Lee-yan (沈立言) said, adding that parents should feed their children more fruits and teach them the difference between natural and processed food.
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