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Where have SA’s cream cakes gone?

SA’s leading consumer journalist, Wendy Knowler, keeps close tabs on the SA food industry – and ubiquitous faux cream on baked goods is the latest item on her sharp radar.

“Fancy some SDT on your cake?” she asks her readers, explaining that the decadent looking cream cakes sold in large volumes by the major supermarkets aren’t made from cream at all‚ but rather “a far cheaper imitation cream concoction of vegetable fat and various chemicals”.

For years the retailers got away with calling their imitation cream products “cream cakes” and “cream doughnuts”‚ despite legislation – the Agricultural Products Standards Act – prohibiting it.

That changed dramatically in 2010 when DAFF – the department of agriculture‚ forestry and fisheries – issued a notice to all retail outlets and the food and beverage industry‚ ordering them to label their imitation cream products correctly – “imitation cream”‚ “dessert topping” or “modified cream”‚ after a KZN transparent labelling crusader, Kenn Reeves, whipped up a fuss about the mis-labelling.

But while some retailers are still playing by the rules by openly disclosing the non-dairy nature of the “cream” on their baked goods labels‚ others aren’t declaring the nature of the cream at all‚ as evidenced by a tweet recently by prominent local chef, Lesego Semenya – @LesDaChef.

Knowler went investigating and found that one retailer adopted a very obscure way of disclosing the nature of their creamy cake toppings to their customers,

When she asked why Checkers’ “Bites of Love” creamy cake labels don’t reveal the type of cream used‚ Shoprite’s media team revealed that the letters “S/D/T” in the cake descriptions‚ as in “CAKE VAN S/D/T”‚ for example‚ stand for “sweet dessert topping” – one of the permitted descriptors for imitation cream‚ when written out in full.

That will no doubt come as a huge surprise to their customers.

“The current system printing our scale labels only allows us to make use of 16 characters for the printing of these labels.

“We know that it isn’t ideal and therefore we are considering various new options which will allow us to elaborate on product descriptions‚” Shoprite said.

“The complete recipe is available from our bakery on request.”

As a general rule‚ if it looks like whipped cream‚ but the label doesn’t specify that it’s real dairy cream‚ it’s not, Knowler warns.


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