I was grocery shopping last week at a Safeway store. I don’t usually go there as it isn’t in a convenient location but it seems like a good place to buy food. One of the items on my list was milk. We generally buy skim, or non-fat, milk, so that’s what I bought. Or thought I bought. We got home, and Dave poured himself a glass and immediately declared that something was wrong with the milk. He said it tasted bad. I tried a sip and agreed. It just didn’t taste right. So then I read the label. Sure, I read labels sometimes in the store, but usually only for products that I haven’t bought before. I buy a gallon of skim milk several times a week, so it’s hardly a new purchase. As I looked at this bottle of milk, I found out that what we’d bought was called “Lucerne skim supreme fat free milk“. OK, this sounds like what I meant to buy, doesn’t it? I read further. The small print said “with natural flavor to enhance rich taste”. What?? I read further still to the ingredient listing: “fat free milk, artificial color*, carragennan*, natural flavor*, vitamin A palmitate, vitamin D3. *Not present in regular fat free milk”. Now just what is going on here? I guess they thought people don’t like skim milk so they wanted to make it taste “richer” by adding flavors and color and thickeners. Personally, I have gotten used to the rather weak taste and insipid pale color of skim milk, and that’s what I expect when I buy it. I guess that others don’t necessarily agree. This was not only a disappointment, but also seemed like a deception. I contacted Safeway to tell them my thoughts about this and they apologized by sending me coupons worth $5 off further Safeway branded products. I will read the labels before I buy the next Safeway items!
Anyhow, even though Safeway was reimbursing me for my unsatisfactory purchase, it was still hard for me to just pour this milk down the drain. I might not like the way it tasted, but I was sure it still has nutritional value. So I used it for making tapioca pudding tonight, one of my favorite comfort foods. I’m a food scientist, so I think I know how ingredients will react, and I didn’t think this milk would make a difference in a pudding. How wrong I was! When I cooked the milk, egg and tapioca, the mixture foamed a lot more than usual. Odd. The real test was in the taste, though. I didn’t share with Dave what I’d done. The tapioca pudding was served with a topping of huckleberries in syrup, something that almost always improves anything. Dave ate it, but commented that the something about the texture seemed wrong. Along with the foaming, I had noticed that the pudding also kind of curdled when I mixed everything together. Hmmmm. It met with a thumbs down vote from Dave after dinner.
So, thank you, Safeway for messing with a very basic food! Yes, I’m a food scientist. I mess with food for my livelihood. But I seriously wonder what the food scientists and sensory panels at Safeway were thinking when they introduced this product into the market. My vote: dump the rest of the gallon down the drain and don’t buy it again.
So, I dumped the milk and was very surprised to find a thick layer of sludge at the bottom of the bottle. The container hadn’t said to “shake well before using”, so it didn’t seem right that it had settle out like this. I wonder now if the bottle of milk I bought had not been batched correctly, and that there was too much carragennan? Or something else gone wrong to make it settle out like that? Still, I will stay away from this in the future and look more carefully before buying.