Red Rooster complaint to ACCC

A food-careful friend chose Red Rooster as the safest of the fast food chains. So we checked, and WOW! They are misleading consumers in our view.

That triggered a Food Intolerance Network submission to the Australian Competition and Consumer Association on 5/03/2015.

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Here's our complaint (full details)

Red Rooster has made and continues to make misleading and erroneous claims in its advertising since launch of a new marketing campaign in September 2014.

Red Rooster claims:

“At Red Rooster you won’t find anything artificial in any of the meals prepared by us”

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“100% Australian Canola Oil”
“Our chicken nuggets .. are preservative free
“There’s no artificial colours, flavours, added hormones or MSG in the meals we prepare”

The reality is that the ingredients include many additives which are artificial and there are many sources of MSG as a search of their products online confirms.

1.    Additives identified as of concern for children in the National Healthy Eating School Canteen Guidelines (Commonwealth Department of Health)

The misleading claims are “At Red Rooster you won’t find anything artificial in any of the meals prepared by us”, “100% Australian Canola Oil” and “Our chicken nuggets .. are preservative free”.

Here is a summary of the artificial additives found in Red Rooster’s product range:

•    Synthetic antioxidant 320 Butylated Hydroxy Anisole BHA is in the canola oil used to cook the roast potato, chips, chicken crispy fillet and in the mayonnaise. The oil is not therefore “100%” as claimed. The products contain ingredients that are artificial.
•    Synthetic antioxidant 319 tert-Butylhydroquinone  tBHQ is in the canola oil used to cook the Cheesy Nuggets and Nuggets. While this is not technically a preservative it is added to preserve the oil, and the oil is not “100%” as claimed. The products contain ingredients that are artificial.
•    Preservative 220 sulphur dioxide is in the Guilt-free Tenders salad dressing. This additive requires a public warning on any ingredient label due to asthma concerns. Their website currently claims incorrectly that there is no sulphite present. This product contains this ingredient which is artificial.
•    Preservative 223 sodium metabisulphite is in the roast potato. This additive requires a public warning on any ingredient label due to asthma concerns. This product contains this ingredient which is artificial.
•    Preservative 200 sorbic acid in the Cheesy chicken nuggets. This product contains this ingredient which is artificial.
•    Preservative 202 potassium sorbate is in several sauces, eg tartare sauce, barbeque sauce, mayonnaise and in the chocolate mousse and raspberry cheesecake. These products contain this ingredient which is artificial.
•    Preservative 282 calcium propionate is in the garlic bread, sesame bun and tortilla wrap. These products contain this ingredient which is artificial.

2.    Flavour enhancer 621 MSG (monosodium glutamate) is present in nearly all food products offered despite the claim made

The misleading claims are that “There’s no... MSG in the meals we prepare” and “At Red Rooster you won’t find anything artificial in any of the meals prepared by us”

Any food chemist asked to analyse these foods would find MSG despite the lawyer’s trick of sometimes carefully claiming “no added MSG” (my emphasis) because the MSG is not added as crystalline MSG powder but as hydrolysed vegetable protein, soy sauce and yeast extract, all of which are very high in the very glutamates which affect people and which many people seek to avoid.

Further, it is our view that hydrolysed vegetable protein and yeast extract are artificial products in that protein is broken down, typically by boiling with hydrochloric acid, then neutralising the slurry with sodium hydroxide, resulting in high concentrations of the sodium cation and the glutamate anion. This is MSG by any chemical understanding.

Here is a partial list of the Red Rooster’s product range where added MSG can be found:

•    Roast chicken
•    chicken stuffing
•    chicken salt
•    gravy
•    chicken nuggets
•    combi salt
•    rosemary sprinkle
•    chip salt
•    barbeque sauce
•    most sauces
•    mayonnaise
•    mash and gravy.

In fact it is hard to find products which do not contain added MSG.

     Dr Howard Dengate for Food Intolerance Network.

Response from Red Rooster

As soon as Red Rooster were told of the complaint, their website was changed. We can only hope that in time they will listen more to consumers and change the food as well.

Here is their new claim, see the new words?

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In a statement, Red Rooster said it had only claimed there were no artificial colours, flavours or added MSG, and had never made the claim about preservatives. "This claim is not an accurate reflection of what we said in advertising".

This is still live on Red Rooster's website: http://www.redrooster.com.au/ourcommitments  accessed 11/03/2015

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Red Rooster's exact words about MSG do not include 'added' http://www.redrooster.com.au/redrooster-story  accessed 11/03/2015

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By the way, in the Sydney Morning Herald story Professor Clifton from the University of SA said "In China, people ingest very large amounts (of MSG) on a daily basis." It is a common misconception that Asians eat high levels of MSG. In fact we eat higher levels in the West.

Lee EH and Lee DI, A study on intake level of monosodium glutamate in Korea. Korean J Environ Health Soc 1986 12:75-85.

Tsuji S and others, 1996 Estimation of daily intake of chemically synthesised natural food additives from processed foods in Japan. 1996. J Food Hyg Soc. 37:308-317.

"As a flavor enhancer, monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been used for 100 years in household food preparation and commercially processed foods. For decades, it was believed that MSG was only used in Asian cuisine. Today, MSG has become one of the world's most widely used food additives. It exists in most processed foods, but may be hidden on ingredient labels and listed under other names (1, 2) ... . According to the available data, large variations exist in MSG consumption within and across populations. The US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA's) Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) Committee reported a mean daily intake of MSG per capita of 550 mg/d in the United States in 1979 (3). A survey published in 1991 found an average intake of 580 mg/d for the general population and 4.68 g/d for extreme users (97.5th percentile consumers) in the United Kingdom (4). In Japan and Korea, the estimated average MSG intake in the 1990s was 1.2–1.7 g/d (5). It is speculated, however, that the average daily MSG intake may be up to 10 g/d (5, 6). Of note, MSG intakes in previous studies were likely underestimated because of missing data on MSG content in processed foods." 

from Consumption of monosodium glutamate in relation to incidence of overweight in Chinese adults: China Health and Nutrition Survey http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3095503/

Even McDonald's admit that MSG can affect people and give a straight answer about it

"We don't add monosodium glutamate (MSG) to any of our products. However, we do use ingredients such as hydrolysed plant protein and yeast extract, which are widely used in the food industry, and which may cause reactions in individuals who are sensitive to MSG because of their natural glutamate content. Yeast extract is used in both the crispy and grilled chicken served in our wraps, salads and burgers. A number of common food ingredients, found in supermarkets and in some of our menu items, such as tomatoes and soy sauce also contain high levels of naturally-occurring free glutamates and may also cause reactions in MSG-sensitive individuals. https://yourquestions.mcdonalds.com.au/questions/12988

 

Full details of complaint made to ACCC

Response from ACCC received August 2015

Red Rooster food chain accused of deceiving customers with 'nothing artificial' claims Sydney Morning Herald 11/03/2015

Factsheet on MSG