Get your facts straight before complaining about ‘UFOs’ in your food

08 August 2018 - 14:04
By Wendy Knowler
Woolworths said the pale substance found in its tiramisu was undissolved gelatine.
Image: Supplied Woolworths said the pale substance found in its tiramisu was undissolved gelatine.

When a man from Parow in Cape Town found a hard‚ pale substance in his Woolies tiramisu dessert recently‚ he was horrified‚ convinced that it was a piece of a condom.

Not so‚ the retailer said - it was actually something a lot more palatable: undissolved gelatine.

“We had two complaints of this nature‚ both for the same batch of tiramisu‚” Woolworths told TimesLIVE‚ explaining that its supplier had applied hot water to the “foreign material” to melt it‚ proving that it was indeed gelatine.

“We have subsequently removed this product from shelves and instructed our supplier to monitor production controls more closely to prevent a recurrence of such an incident‚” said Woolworths.

The substance found in the customer's Woolworths tiramisu dessert.
Image: Supplied The substance found in the customer's Woolworths tiramisu dessert.

“We have also increased quality-control procedures and frequency to prevent non-conforming components ending up in our products.”

The man remains unconvinced and is annoyed that evidence of his “non-conforming component” was destroyed.

“I know the difference between gelatine and a condom!” he said.

Condoms have been known to make their way into food‚ often as an act of sabotage by disgruntled workers. That was the case some years ago with a range of locally made luxury desserts‚ which resulted in a disciplinary hearing.

But in many cases‚ consumers mistake other forms of ‘UFOs’ (unappetising foreign objects!) for condoms...

In the early 2000s there was a seal problem with a large batch of Coca-Cola‚ which caused the growth of a blob of white mould in many of the bottles. A rash of “I found a condom in my Coke!” consumer complaints soon followed.

The current Coke UFO story doing the local rounds is very fishy – literally. A video shows a fish swimming in a bottle of Coke‚ the claim being that the “fishy” Cokes are being sold by shops owned by foreigners.

Coca-Cola South Africa said: “We have noted this video and urge any person who has had any product that might have been compromised to immediately report it to our customer care line - 0860 112 526 - so we can investigate the matter."

Mistaking something “innocent” such as undissolved gelatine for a condom can have serious consequences for a consumer who goes on a social media rant.

A few months ago‚ a woman asked a Kauai staff member at a Cape Town branch to remake a smoothie because the first one was not thick enough. She saw some slimy stuff at the bottom of the second smoothie and was convinced that it was the saliva of the smoothie maker – done to punish her for rejecting the first smoothie.

While the company was still busy investigating her complaint‚ the angry woman took to Facebook to allege just that. In fact‚ the “spit” was simply banana that hadn’t been fully blended!

Kauai subsequently obtained a High Court interdict - served via WhatsApp - to force that woman to remove her Facebook post and all the comments on it. She could well have been asked to pay the company’s legal costs‚ too.

Some UFOs are inserted into food products by consumers hoping to score hefty compensation from the manufacturer.

A study by Glass Technology Services in the UK five years ago found that 70% of the glass fragments reported by consumers as UFOs and submitted for analysis originated from items that are commonly found in the home.

And when someone complained to Nestlé that they’d found sand in their baby formula‚ the company had the sand tested by a lab. They found that it came from the Western Cape‚ not Harrismith in the Free State‚ where their formula is produced.

Moral of the story: if you’re going to rant on social media‚ make sure it’s true and in the public interest. If it’s not‚ it’s defamation.

  • You can contact our consumer columnist Wendy Knowler with your queries via email: or on Twitter: @wendyknowler