Editor's note: This is the first in a periodic series of stories in which Consumer Ally will commission laboratory tests to verify food label claims. If there's a food you think is too good to be true, let us know at ConsumerAlly@WalletPop.com.
Galeos Miso Caesar Dressing, a supposedly low-calorie and low-fat product hyped on NBC's reality show "The Biggest Loser" and endorsed by trainer Jillian Michaels, among others, is neither low-cal nor low-fat, lab tests commissioned by Consumer Ally found. Testing showed the actual calories per serving is almost 10 times what the label claims.
The dressing, sold at Whole Foods stores and other health-conscious grocers nationwide, is comparable in fat and calories to such non-diet brands as Marie's Caesar, and has more fat and calories than Kraft's Creamy Caesar.
The Galeos label claims 14 calories and 1 gram of fat per tablespoon serving. That's where the problems start. The serving size required by federal law on dressing labels is 2 tablespoons, creating the illusion - even if those numbers were accurate - that the dressing outdoes other diet dressings.
The laboratory showed the label should properly read: 120 calories, 11 grams of fat and 390 mg of sodium. The actual label claims 56 grams of sodium. Federal food labeling laws give companies a 20% margin of error.
Labels are frequently in error, but typically within that margin. A Consumer Ally reader suggested we test Galeos dressing.
Company owner Andrei Leontieff acknowledged to Consumer Ally the serving size could be an issue, but added the one tablespoon serving would be OK if it was considered a marinade. It isn't.
He didn't dismiss the lab findings nor express surprise. Upon further questioning, Leontieff explained tests he has commissioned backed up his label's claims.
"What I have is totally different," he said.
He declined to further discuss the results obtained by Consumer Ally, which paid for testing done at Specialized Technology Resources' food laboratories. Consumer Ally purchased Galeos dressing at a Whole Foods Market and shipped an unopened bottle for testing.
On the Galeos' website, Leontieff takes full responsibility for how the dressing is made.
"Under the watchful eye of Chef Andrei, Galeos Miso Dressings are prepared and bottled on site, insuring quality control from start to finish, every drop, homemade in America."
Quietly, among those promoting low-fat, low-calorie foods, there has been a buzz that this was a product that was too good to be true. Galeos has enjoyed strong support from healthy living devotees, including Michaels, based on what is written on the label.
Here is what she said in an interview earlier this year:
"But a salad dressing that I'm obsessed with ... - this is our one product that we joke has been around and stayed around since Season 1 of the Biggest Loser -- is a salad dressing called Galeo's and it's G-A-L-E-O apostrophe S, 17 calories a tablespoon, all natural and it tastes amazing and it comes in, you know, five or six different flavors."
Lisa Lillien, better known as "Hungry Girl" to the million followers of her observations on eating, told Consumer Ally this is good example of what health-conscious eaters should be wary of.
"If something tastes too good to be true it often is," she said. "So, be careful. I've seen this many times and am not surprised."
UPDATE (Nov.22): Here are the actual laboratory results before being broken down by serving size for Galeo's World's Best Miso Caesar:
- Carbohydrates, g/100g – 7.8013
- Fat, g/100g – 38.32
- Moisture, g/100g – 46.39
- Protein, g/100g – 4.1387
- Saturated Fat, g/100g – 6.0
- Calories, g/100 g – 392.64
- Total Sugars, g/100g – 7.35
- Sodium, mg/100g – 1306