When was the last time you ripped into that pricey goose down jacket to make sure it wasn't filled with chicken feathers?
Or germinated a sample of your new lawn seed to see if it contained quack grass?Or measured the amount of fat that cooked out of that "extra lean" ground beef?
Unless you work at the state's department of agriculture, you probably spend your days blissfully believing that the labels attached to the products you buy tell "the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth."
And in many cases, you'd be dead wrong.
That's one lesson a group of teachers learned Saturday during a consumer-issues seminar, sponsored by the Newspaper in Education department of the Deseret News, in cooperation with state agriculture officials and local consumer specialists.
Included in the five-hour workshop was a tour of several innocuous-looking laboratories. There state workers test the truth of the weights, measures, ingredients, additives, preservatives and purity listed on the labels of nearly every conceivable product Utah consumers can purchase.
Everything from fertilizer and dairy feed to garden seeds, milk products and clothing is tested to ensure that consumers are getting exactly what the label says they have paid for.
And the scrutiny is intense. For instance, Utah is one of only three states that microscopically tests the fibers in clothing. Companies who mislead the public about any product are fined.
John Poulson, supervisor of food and dairy compliance, told teachers that while industry may complain about government regulation, such measures are vital to the health and safety of consumers.
Though food processors have more knowledge and better technology to use in preparing and packaging their products, "There are as many things going on now as there were back in the early 1900s" when Upton Sinclair chronicled filthy food-processing conditions in his book, "The Jungle," Poulson said.
The difference today is that the majority of problems Poulson sees - about 95 percent - result from accidents or mismanagement, rather than intentional adulteration. He described two past incidents, both involving school food programs, where food inspectors found contaminated products headed for public school lunchrooms. In both cases, officials were notified and the problems were quickly remedied, he said.
Consumers must also beware when purchasing products categorized as "healthier foods." Poulson said because the federal government is failing to enforce food-product standards - strict definitions of what certain food products must contain - he believes labeling on food products is out of control.
For example, Kraft wanted to introduce a product in Utah called "light cheddar cheese." By definition, there is no such product. The same with "light sour cream" - a product Poulson says will soon line supermarket store shelves.
"It's going to cost half-again as much as real sour cream, and I'm guessing they'll substitute moisture for fat. But you'll buy the stuff - so will my wife. If we were really smart, we'd get the real stuff and thin it with skim milk. But we don't. And companies provide what the consumer wants."