It’s not just the fridge that is a source of frustration, as it often doesn’t work as expected, according to a new study from University of Toronto and McMaster University.
The research, published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, looked at more than 6,000 food containers across four major Canadian food retailers.
The researchers found that most of the containers were either faulty or were incorrectly labelled, and in some cases, they were more likely to be faulty than correct.
For example, more than 60 per cent of food containers labeled as ‘dishwasher’ or ‘fryer’ were actually the reverse, meaning the container was a refrigerator.
A third of food packages contained food that was “frozen, but not reheated,” and this was often because the food wasn’t properly packaged and frozen, or because the container had a small amount of air in it that had trapped heat.
Another problem was that the containers didn’t have labels for what was being put into them, or if they did, there was often no way to know what was actually being put in.
While there was a trend toward more errors, some items were particularly problematic.
About half of food items were labeled incorrectly, or more than half were labelled as being frozen, but were actually a microwave oven.
Food packaging can be misleading, said the study’s lead author, Annette B. Mascaro, an associate professor of business and public affairs at the University of Waterloo.
“We’re seeing food products that are not properly packaged, so we’re not aware of what’s in them,” said Mascari.
While the study found that about 10 per cent were not correct or not correctly labelled, that’s more than double the rate in the U.S.
Mascaro says it’s important to know that food is safe and that it’s not likely to cause illness.
She also says that labels can be helpful, but that if you are not aware that a product is faulty, it’s a sign that it could be dangerous.
“You’re probably more likely than not to put it in the wrong container or in the incorrect packaging,” she said.
“So it’s definitely something to look at.”
Mascari says that there are other things to look for when shopping for food, such as how the food is packaged and labeled.
“For example there’s a lot of packaging that isn’t labeled, or it’s mislabeled, and that can lead to a lot more problems, so it’s something to be aware of and monitor.”
Miscarriage is a leading cause of foodborne illness, accounting for more than 90,000 deaths in Canada each year.
The study’s co-authors were University of North Texas associate professor and food safety expert David Stott, who studies food safety, and University of Victoria associate professor Dr. Daniel Leblanc, who works on food safety in the public health realm.
Miscaro said that while food packaging can help people understand the ingredients in a product, it can also be a barrier to understanding how food gets into our bodies.
“There’s an element of confusion and confusion in the grocery store, and it can lead people to believe that food has gone wrong,” she added.
“But what we find is that people often don’t have that information, and so they can have some pretty bad decisions.”