Roundly Confusing

by on January 21, 2007

Having taken this photo while waiting for our kid to chomp through a McDonald’s Kids Meal at new year (mea culpa – but it’s the winging, really), I’ve just noticed another frankly amazing example of a nutritional content “explanation.” This time, it’s on the cardboard sleeve of a pot of Sainsbury’s Cornish clotted cream (again, don’t ask). Here is a pack shot, and here is a close-up of what Sainsbury’s are calling the “Wheel of Heath” printed in the top right corner.

Because the Wheel is a pie chart, it would seem reasonable to assume it shows the proportions of each nutritional element in relation to a whole. However, quite what whole is not immediately clear. Perhaps it might even allow you to compare the amount of fat and other things you might get from a portion cream compared to, say, a ready meal or a bar of choccie displaying the same style of chart. But again, that too seems doubtful on further inspection. So what does is show?

On the back of the pack there is a URL together with the words “The Wheel of Health is based on guideline daily amounts.” Daily amounts? I had to think about that as I looked a the chart. The Wheel is neatly divided into five equal segments: one for fat, sat far, salt, sugar and calories. Equal segments? Daily amounts? So, a 30g portion of this cream will have a fifth of your daily allowance of salt in it? No. The first thing that should clue you to that being totally the wrong interpretation is the fact that the “salt” segment has the word “trace” in it. How can a trace be represented as being a fifth of anything in something like cream?

What’s more, the example pie chart on the web site shows exactly the same proportions as the one on the cream packaging. Indeed, looking at some other Sainsbury’s stuff in our fridge shows the same. Everything is shown as exactly a fifth.

I can confidently say that the graphical device here is not a pie chart at all; the segment colours mean nothing (or at least are unexplained), and I feel a complaint to Sainsbury’s head office coming on.


And shouldn’t “Sat Fat” be shown as a subsection of “Fat”? Or are they two different things, which add up to more than the weight of the product? As to the colours, I’m guessing red means “CAREFUL! Consuming this product may have you believing every health scare you read in the Daily Mail!!” and green indicates that the product’s low enough in whatever to satisfy the ethical living people who write for G2. Mind you, without some kind of legend it could be that red indicates that the fat was flown in from Mars and the green indicates that the salt and sugar were produced as by filtering cow sh*t through a muslin cloth.
What do I know though? I shop at Morrisons.

The fact that it’s called a “Wheel” would give a clue… If it was a pie chart, it would be called the “Pie of Health”. A Pie of Health would be a wondrous thing indeed.

Being a Wheel, it has equal segments. Much like a Wheel of Fortune. Unlike the latter, you don’t get to choose at random a single segment (“Woohooo, I won a total sugars!”) but are lumbered with the lot. What they are isn’t clear.

I’m guessing the red / green is a nod to the new Traffic Light system they are planning to introduce across the board, except for the various major retailers / food producers who are boycotting it in favour of an equally incomprehensible system.

Having looked at the other picture I realise there is a greater crime against humanity afoot. Namely, the caption on the cream – “Rich, silky cream made from fresh Cornish milk. Crowned with a deep golden crust.”

Crowned with a deep golden crust??!

Whoever wrote that copy should hang their heads in shame.

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