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Deconstructing Dinner: Reconstructing Our Food System
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September 13, 2007


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The Packaged Foods Exposed series takes a look at the largest food manufacturers in the world. What products fall under their banners; how has their influence shaped economic policy, society and culture; how have they affected the environments they operate in; and what relationships do they foster within the countries they are located?

This series places corporations in a critical light, hoping to provide a more balanced image to the advertising and PR campaigns launched by some of the most influential food corporations on the planet.

Unilever In this fourth episode of the Packaged Foods Exposed series, we take a look at one of the largest consumer products companies in the world - Unilever.

With such a significant influence on agriculture, food and health here in Canada and abroad, this focus on the company will be spread out over a two-part series.

Part II

On Part II of the Unilever series we will explore the historical and current health impacts of margarine, and how Unilever has responded to such health concerns. Unilever has both historically and recently had a heavy influence on life in the oceans. Such an influence extended up until their most recent impact on the depletion of cod stocks in the Baltic Sea - stocks that are on the brink of collapse. Unilever also controls roughly 25% of the Canadian ice cream market, and this broadcast will look into some similar tactics the company has used in the world of margarine that are quietly being applied to many of the company's ice cream products. The question is raised - are Unilever's ice creams really ice cream? We will learn of a misleading web site the company maintains that seemingly violates Canadian laws, and we will learn of a controversial ingredient entering into Unilever's ice cream products around the world, an ingredient that replicates the DNA found in a fish, and one that is created through genetic modification!


Oliver Knowles - Oceans Campaigner, Greenpeace (London, UK) - The over-exploitation and mismanagement of fisheries has already led to some spectacular fisheries collapses. The cod fishery off Newfoundland, Canada collapsed in 1992, leading to the loss of some 40,000 jobs in the industry. The cod stocks in the North Sea and Baltic Sea are now heading the same way and are close to complete collapse. Greenpeace has been at the forefront of addressing this serious concern.

Geoff Ross-Smith - Owner, Kootenay Kreamery (Nelson, BC) - Geoff began selling Unilever's Breyers ice cream at a stand in Ainsworth, BC until the quality of the product declined rapidly. Geoff chose to then launch a small independent ice cream company - now selling his products to 10 stores in the area.

Therese Beaulieu - Assistant Director, Communication and Policy, Dairy Farmers of Canada (Ottawa, ON) - A national policy, lobbying and promotional organization representing Canada's 16,000 dairy farms. DFC strives to create favourable conditions for the Canadian dairy industry, today and in the future. It works to maintain policies that foster the viability of Canadian dairy producers and promote dairy products and their health benefits.

Joe Cummins - Professor Emeritus of Genetics, University of Western Ontario (London, ON) - Joe is one of the earliest critics of genetic engineering. He obtained BS Horticulture, Washington State University 1955 and PhD Cellular Biology, University of Wisconsin 1962. Taught genetics at Rutgers and the University of Washington, Seattle before joining the University of Western Ontario in 1972. Joe sits on the board of the UK-based Independent Science Panel and is involved with The Institute of Science in Society.

Breyers Complaint Project

The product shown below is one of a number of Breyers products that are not legally allowed to be called "Ice Cream" in Canada. Canadian laws prohibit a product to be referred to as Ice Cream unless a specified percentage of solids are derived from milk fat. Without meeting these requirements, products are required to be labeled as "Frozen Dessert". Breyers has placed a number of these "Frozen Desserts" under their "Packaged Ice Cream" category on their web site (, thereby misleading the Canadian public.

Breyers Web Site
Reprinted from Breyers Web Site: September 27, 2007

Complaint to Advertising Standards Canada re: Unilever/Breyers Web Site
September 26, 2007

Who is the Advertiser? Unilever

What is the Product or Service advertised? Breyers

Where did you see the advertisement? Unilever's Breyers Web Site

When did you see the advertisement? September 2007

Canadian labeling laws prohibit labeling a product as "ice cream", unless it contains a specified percentage of solids derived from milk fat. Breyers produces a number of products that are not able to be labeled as ice cream and are instead "frozen desserts". Under the "Packaged Ice Cream" category of their web site, Unilever lists a number of products that are NOT "ice cream". One product example is under the "Double Churned Light" category. The product is "Fat Free Cappucino Chocolate Chunk."

Actions taken by Unilever: Since the airing of this broadcast and the complaint filed with ASC, Unilever has changed the "Packaged Ice Cream" heading (indicated in image above) to "Frozen Desserts". See for yourself at

Response from ASC: October 11, 2007
A letter was received indicating that ASC contacted Unilever regarding the complaint. Unilever agreed to update the website so that the non-"ice cream" products are listed under a different category than the "ice cream" products.

Note from DD: Unilever did not entirely do what they said they would do. As indicated above, they simply lumped both ice cream and frozen dessert products into one category titled "Frozen Desserts"!

Musical Selection (name/title/album/label)
Theme/Soundclip - Adham Shaikh, Infusion, Fusion, Sonic Turtle (CDN)
Soundbite - Nick Ayoub, Saphir, Ready or Not, Do it Right Music (CDN)
Soundbite - Bombay Dub Orchestra, Mumtaz, Bombay Dub Orchestra, Six Degrees Records

Alternate Audio Instructions...
Try typing " (or" via the "Open URL" function in
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Packaged Foods Exposed

Part I of the Unilever exposé





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