Friday, April 24, 2009

Canned Food Rip Off--What is the "Recommended Fill Weight"?

Food Prices are a huge concern for a lot of people right now but how do we know what we are getting? Lately, I have noticed that what is on the can is not really what is in the can!

Letter to Moody Dunbar Food Company:

I recently bought 2 40 ounce(1.13 kg) cans of Dunbar's cut yams at my local Grocery Outlet. I am very disappointed to find out that each can only contained about 750 grams(27 ounces) of product. Is this typical of the product or are the cans I bought underfilled?

product: Cut Yams
Imprint: DJ27C ALD7

Thank you for your time.


Answer from Moody Dunbar:

The 27 ounces you found in each of the two cans is actually a little more than the recommended amount. The attached chart was copied from the US Grade Standards for Canned Sweet potatoes - it shows a recommended fill-weight of 23.8 ounces for the 40 oz. can (referred to in the chart as a #2-1/2 Tall).

40 Ounce Cans Contain 23.8 Ounces? To be fair the nutritional label did say that the can contained 7 1/2 cup servings which would be about 28 ounces but saying 40 Ounces on the Label seems misleading to me and I told the Company that.

Also, this table seems to be a Trade Secret since I can't find similar information for other foods like canned corn or green beans. How much actual corn is in a 15 ounce can of corn?

My Answer:
In that case, shouldn't the label say 23.8 ounces net weight? 40 ounces net weight seems very misleading to me and I have never seen this recommendation table before.

According to Wikipedia: net weight refers to the weight of the product alone, discounting the weight of its container or packaging.

Your can says, "cut sweet potatoes packed in syrup" which I read to mean the product is sweet potatoes and the syrup is packing and not included in the total weight of the product.

This table is rather misleading and makes it impossible to compare the prices of raw vegetables to the price of processed and canned vegetables which I did when I purchased this product.

Sweet potatoes are currently 99 cents per pound at my local store and considering 5% waste, the price per ounce is $.06513. 40 ounces of canned sweet potatoes for $1.79 is a good deal at $.04475 per ounce. but 23.8 ounces for $1.79 at $.07521 per ounce is not a good deal.

The point of shopping at a discount grocer is to get better grocery prices but if the net weight shown on the can doesn't give me any information to compare prices with, then how do I know if I am getting a deal or not?


Final Word From Moody Dunbar Foods:

The term “Net Weight” is a legal term that refers to the total contents by weight of the product in a package. In the case of canned vegetables, the package net weight includes the product and the packing fluid. The weight of the product after the fluid has been drained off is call the “Drained Weight”.

The FDA and the USDA establishes the content and format of the information placed on our canned sweet potato labels. So, the reason our labels look the they way do is because We are required by law to follow the FDA and USDA food labeling laws.

The only company I could find that lists "Drained Weight" is Trader Joes where a 15.25 ounce can of corn contains 8 ounces of drained corn.

So, fellow frugal shoppers, how do we compare prices if the "Net Weight" is meaningless and the "Recommended Fill Weight" is different for each product and seems to be a secret?


Consists of... said...

May be we should fund a study. Buy a couple of cans of various items, compare net weights and drained weights. This would be an informal study as it wouldn't test EVERY type of item, but it would get a good average.

VicinSea said...

The USDA has "recommended fill weights" for just about every food on the market in every size can imaginable but the information is very hard to find and very cryptic.

I did notice today that tuna now comes in a 5 ounce can instead of the 6.5 ounce can I am used to. The can is the same size but it is a little shorter. The can only contained 3.25 ounces of actual fish--not even 2 full servings, but of course the price is the same as always.

VicinSea said...

Comparing can sizes to contents might make an interesting study for your home school group. Let me know if you pursue it!

Proverbs 31 said...

I work in nutrition and this can be a very frustrating thing to deal with when helping clients. My best advice is to go by the servings on the back, rather than the total weight on the front. On a side note, please don't eat sweet potatoes canned in's very unhealthy! :) Go with the fresh ones or get canned in something better for you.