Buying canned food? You could be wasting your money

Posted at 3:56 PM, Nov 12, 2014
and last updated 2014-11-14 06:31:26-05

Have you noticed you're getting more and more water with the canned foods you buy at the store these days?

Is it just you? Or is this another new trend, like product downsizing to give us less food?

Shopper unhappy, gets out scale

Mary Orchard noticed something different when she recently opened a 5-ounce can of store brand tuna.

"The can doesn't look like 5 ounces, not even a little," she said.

She decided to investigate, pulling out a postal scale, draining the water and weighing the remaining tuna.

"It's 3.0 ounces," she said.

So she says she weighed a second can, and a third, and a fourth -- and she contends all of them contained about a third water.

Not just tuna

Many of today’s shoppers are asking the same question when they open up canned food. Katy Radamaker and Mary see it all the time.

"We bought some tuna," the Radamakers said, "and went to drain it, and found there was a lot more water in it than normal."

"I actually had to pour it into one of the colanders to get all of the water off it," her friend Hammonds said.

So what are you getting for your hard-earned dollar?

To find out, we went shopping for corn, green beans and tuna, grabbing popular name brands plus two store brands.

Back in the newsroom, we lined them up on a table with a postal scale.

In front of us: Corn and green beans from Green Giant and Del Monte, plus cheaper brands from Target and one supermarket house brand.

Not only did many of the cans contain as much food as water, two of them actually contained more water than food.

Tuna put to the test

Mary's store brand was not the worst, when it came to the amount of water.

In our test of tuna, it was close, but Target's Market Pantry gave us the least amount of fish: 3.4 ounces, with 2.1 ounces of water.

Chicken of the Sea contained the most fish: 4 ounces of tuna, just 1.6 ounces of water.

Vegetables put to the test

We found even more water in canned veggies. Most contained one-third liquid.

But Green Giant and the supermarket green beans each contained more water than food.  

Green Giant had the most liquid: 8.1 ounces, compared with just 6.1 ounces of green beans.

Consumer Reports checks in

Last year, Consumer Reports Magazine did their own scientific controlled lab test of more than 60 canned goods, and came up with the same results.

"The cans we looked at averaged between 52 percent and 66 percent food," Jamie Kopf of Consumer Reports said. "And the rest just went down the drain."

Companies defend the use of water, saying it keeps the veggies moist and fresh-tasting.

Green Giant tells us it  “in order to ensure the freshness and quality of our product, a brine solution (water + salt) is necessary. Our canned French Style Green Beans contain approximately 45 percent brine."

Not happy? You have an alternative: many companies are selling vacuum sealed foil packets with no water inside, good news for shoppers like Mary Orchard, frustrated by what they are finding on store shelves.

That way you don't waste your money.

Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the E.W. Scripps Co.

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