Series in which Sophie Raworth reveals how household products are tested, putting the makers' claims on trial and showing how to get the best value for money.
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Take a look around your home.
Can you be sure that every appliance is safe?
Is everything a company tells you about a product true?
And are you getting the best value for your money?
With the help of the country's top experts, we are going to see
what it takes to test the household products we use every day.
We will discover how they are pushed to their limits.
We will put the makers' claims on trial.
And show you how to make your money go further.
You will find these products in any ordinary house,
but this is no ordinary house. And no ordinary street.
This is the Watchdog Test House.
Hello, we're deep inside one of Britain's leading science centres.
Here at the Building Research Establishment,
some of the products and materials that we use every day
are put to the test, to make sure that they are safe,
environmentally-friendly and that they don't fall apart.
Coming up on today's programme...
what's in your food?
Not always what you think.
So I spat out whatever it was and I saw it was a small
piece of glass with a really sharp point on it.
What the big manufacturers are doing to stop bugs
and foreign bodies getting in there.
The household product that looks harmless, but could be lethal.
I realised it was the blind cord because she was in the corner
of the bed, she was very limp and she just looked like a rag doll.
And confused by all those extreme mascara claims?
We put some big brands through some extreme testing.
If either of these mascaras work for me, I will definitely buy them.
Pizzas, cakes, cereals.
We spend billions on packaged foods every year.
After all, they are convenient and can offer great value for money.
And whilst we might accept varying levels of quality in what
we buy, we do expect a certain standard of hygiene and safety.
But unfortunately, sometimes those standards fall short.
Feeling squeamish? Then look away now.
A caterpillar in some frozen peas. An insect in some fish.
This piece of metal in some dried fruit and nuts.
Even a live fly found in the stir fry.
How do the bugs and unexplained objects get in there?
A question Katie Barron wanted answered after buying
a bag of baby leaf spinach from Sainsbury's.
I was just sitting down, eating my dinner,
and then the next moment, I just felt something really hard
in my mouth, so I kind of just, you know, spat out whatever it was.
And then the next minute I saw it was a small piece of glass,
like, that big, but with a really sharp point on it.
And so I was obviously really shocked
and I couldn't quite understand how that had got in there.
Katie sent the sample off to Sainsbury's, who said
that despite having machines in place to prevent foreign bodies
passing through their production process,
on this occasion the glass may have been obscured by some spinach leaves.
It was quite laughable, really,
because isn't the whole point of the machine to stop that from happening?
Sainsbury's offered Katie a £20 gift voucher
and promised to work hard to make sure this doesn't happen again.
But what about the things in our food that we can't see?
Millions of beef burgers on sale at several supermarkets in the UK
and Ireland are being pulled off the shelves after food safety
officials found they contained horse meat.
Last January's horse meat scandal caused shock waves when tests
revealed a number of products were not what they said on the label.
Horse meat was found in burgers, ready meals and tinned beef.
Something had to change.
I am keen that more of this is tested on its way through
the process, and less is taken on trust that
the piece of paper attached to the pallet is correct.
As a result of the horse meat scandal,
manufacturers have introduced tests to prevent this from happening again.
Later in the programme, we will see exactly what that means
for one of the largest food manufacturers in the UK
and one not implicated in the horse meat scandal, Premier Foods.
Volumising, lengthening, curling and waterproofing, it seems
there is nothing that a mascara can't do for your eyelashes these days.
But are the products that make such bold claims really any better
than the mascaras that don't make any claim that all?
Let's find out.
First up, Sophie, those lengthening mascaras.
Today's products are the three mascaras we could find on the
high street that make the strongest claims when it comes to lengthening.
Sleek Mascara Lethal Length.
Do you dare to build your lashes to lethal lengths?
L'Oreal Telescopic Mascara.
It boasts an ability to lengthen to the extreme.
And No7's Extreme Length Extend.
They say this is their most extreme length mascara, complete with
We will be comparing these to a basic Collection 2000 Colour
Lash Mascara, which makes no claims about lengthening at all.
Here is Dr Laura to explain how lengthening mascaras work.
One of the most interesting ingredients of the mascaras
is the polymer-based compounds which are in there.
Here we have some polymer. You can see it's quite thick and gloopy.
What you can do is dry it out in a thin chain,
so imagine if you apply the mascara to your eye, you drag it out
and that creates an extra bit of polymer to the end
of your eyelash, it should, in theory, add length to your lashes.
So, that's the theory. But what about the practice?
Time to look at some of the fake eyelashes in close-up.
What we are going to do is apply some mascara to some of those
eyelashes, and then we can compare the before and after to see
if there's been a change in the length.
We start with a product that makes no claims about length.
You can see from here, it's quite obvious that the length
of the fake eyelashes with no product on
is really similar to the length of the eyelashes with the product on.
OK, that's hardly a surprise.
But what about the products that do make claims about length,
like this one, the Sleek Mascara?
There is one lash in there which is slightly elongated, and that
could be the polymer chain coming out and creating that longer lash.
But there's not a significant increase in length.
Now the L'Oreal Telescopic.
Again, there is no significant increase in length,
and it's a similar story with the No7.
There was no clear winner.
There wasn't a dramatic difference with any of the products.
So, under a microscope, there doesn't appear to be any real
difference when it comes to length.
But the testing is not over yet.
We are going to take our test to where it really counts.
Barbara, Joelle and Vada know a thing or two about make-up.
They are students from the East London Beauty Academy.
Mascara is really important to me.
I struggle to leave the house without it.
I am using mascara every day.
It's a really important routine when I am doing my make-up.
We've asked each of them to apply one of the mascaras that
make the biggest claims about length onto the lashes on one eye,
and the basic Collection 2000 mascara, which makes no claims,
on the other. Joelle is using L'Oreal Telescopic.
Vada is using No7 and Barbara is using Sleek.
We then take a photo of each of them and head off to Surrey Quays
to see if shoppers are able to spot the difference.
This one, I think, is slightly longer than that one.
This one looks longest.
I can't see any difference in that one.
They look the same, to be honest.
Of the 20 people we asked, many could not tell the difference.
Only eight could spot the expensive Sleek Mascara, which made
big claims about lengthening,
and was applied to the left-hand side of the picture.
Again, less than half the people we asked managed to correctly
identify that the L'Oreal mascara was actually applied to the lashes
on the right of the picture.
And only four could tell that the No7 product was in fact
the mascara on the left side of the picture.
So, is it really worth paying as much as £10 more for mascaras
-which make these bold claims?
-I don't think it makes any difference.
When it comes to length, then I don't think it matters what you use.
Because going by these pictures, it's really irrelevant.
It just says that the more expensive one doesn't always work out.
Of course, our tests are just a snapshot.
Boots and L'Oreal told us
that all claims are backed up with their robust,
independent testing and research
and that their own consumer tests found that the vast majority
of women agreed with the statements made in their advertising.
But what about those products that claim to offer
Yes, we'll be putting those to the test later.
Now, blind cords.
You'll find them in bedrooms, bathrooms, living rooms and kitchens.
Millions of us use them every day without a second thought.
But what if I told you they have never had to undergo mandatory
safety tests, and despite appearing to be harmless, they can kill?
Here's Lynn Faulds Wood.
Welcome to Watchdog.
In tonight's programme, all these people have written to us.
-Thanks to you and eagle-eyed Trading Standards officers...
'Watchdog has exposed the many products that could pose a risk
'to small children over the years. From toys with small parts...'
This one's buttons are actually held on with open pins.
'..To buggies that could chop off children's fingertips.
'But the dangers of some things can be much less obvious.'
Take this, the commonest way we make blinds in our homes go up and down.
It's a cord with a loop.
Chances are, if you have got these, you haven't given them
a second thought.
But a cord like this could not just injure a child,
it could actually strangle them.
When Joy Edwards was pregnant with twins,
she decided to invest in a new blind for their bedroom.
A few months later, Joy gave birth to a boy, Lewis, and a girl, Leah.
If anyone would have an accident, I'd expect my son, Lewis.
He was the one that was inquisitive,
he was the one that would always try something first.
Three or four weeks later, we might expect Leah to have a try.
But on the morning of October 10th, 2010, Joy was woken by her
elder son Christian, saying Leah had something wrapped round her neck.
Joy rushed to the twins' bedroom.
Then I realised it was the blind cord because she was in the corner
of the bed, she was very limp and she just looked like a rag doll.
Leah had caught her neck in the looped cord of the blind
hanging near her cot. It easily supported her weight
and she was unable to free herself.
I laid her down, started to do CPR.
The next minute I remember is my husband taking over.
I was a bit hysterical at that point.
And then later, it seemed like ages but it wasn't that long,
we went off with the police to Chelmsford.
And that's when she was pronounced...that she had died.
They couldn't resuscitate her.
Tragedies like this are all too common.
There have been 27 deaths that we know about involving looped
blind cords since 1999.
14 deaths in the last three years alone.
Sophie Parslow was one of them.
She died last June at just 17 months.
I mean, I only went to the toilet.
Everyone leaves their little one, just to go and pop to
but it's just something you never imagine ever happening.
She was still in her pyjamas. She was watching Peppa Pig.
And then she was just gone.
In spite of the serious dangers posed by looped blind cords,
and pressure from bereaved parents calling for them to be banned,
progress has been slow.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents has been campaigning
on the dangers of blind cords since 2004.
But it has taken years to get manufacturers to install
This is a blind which we have recently purchased which comes
with two safety devices fitted.
The main one is this device here, which is designed to attach
it to the wall so that the blind cord itself is kept taut, making it
more difficult for the child to get
his or her head inside it.
There's also a break cord device which has been fitted here.
And a certain amount of pressure will ping that.
Many companies now also design blinds that don't have a cord at all.
This is a remotely-controlled electric blind.
Wind and spring-operated blinds are also available.
But by far the most significant change is happening this year.
A new European standard is being introduced which will ensure
that any new product coming onto the market will not just have
to have a safety device fitted,
it will also have to undergo a wider series of safety tests.
There is a whole test regime now which involves UV testing,
impact testing and small parts.
And of course, the key thing of that is the load under which that will
break, which in the standards is six kilos.
Six kilos, of course, is the weight of a small child.
We can only hope the new European standard
comes as something of a relief to bereaved parents. But is it enough?
Some would like to see an end
to looped blind cords like these altogether.
But that is not about to happen any time soon.
Blind manufacturers insists a looped cord is still the best solution
for blinds in some less dangerous locations,
like high level windows, where they are safely out of reach.
Now, washing powders, capsules, tablets, liquids -
they promise to do everything from ridding your clothes of stains
to making your whites whiter
and leaving your clothes feeling wonderfully clean.
But with prices ranging from 10p per wash to 37p,
which product is going to give you the best value for money?
Well, a man who's pretty much tested them all
is Richard Headland from Which?
Now, we have everything here, don't we?
We have tablets, powder, liquid and capsules.
What is the difference?
Obviously there is a difference between liquids and powders,
and the main thing is that powders are better at stain removal
cos they've got bleaching agents in.
The liquid is much better when you're washing your colours,
so it's much gentler, typically on your colours, than the powder is.
But then you've also got the liquid capsules and the powder tablets.
Now, they're fundamentally the same products,
but obviously you don't have to measure it out.
You can just pop it in the washing machine.
These capsules could cost you over 30p a wash,
and that could be up to twice the price of using the liquid by itself.
So there's a lot of choice.
Does it make a difference between brand and own brand?
What we find in our testing is, actually, sometimes brands
come out on top, sometimes the own labels come out on top,
and the own labels are significantly cheaper.
And we do find some real supermarket stars in the testing.
And what about bio versus non-bio?
Because people get confused about that.
What is the difference?
The main difference is that biological powders
or liquids contain enzymes,
which are more effective at getting out certain types of stains.
Some people prefer to use non-bio
because they think they're gentler on the skin.
And indeed a lot of powders
and detergents marketed for children, for example, are non-bios,
but they're not as effective at stain removal.
So, to sum up, your top tips for value for money.
If you do want to get your whites clean, buy a powder,
and powder is also the cheapest option.
For your colours, buy a liquid.
And, generally, consider buying supermarket own brands because
some of them are fantastic value for money over the big brands.
-Richard, thank you.
Back to those claims and promises about make-up now.
Do some mascaras have special lengthening powers,
as the manufacturers say?
Not always, according to the tests we carried out earlier.
Are some products really waterproof, as the advertising claims?
That's another question.
It certainly is, Sophie,
and here's hoping that Dr Laura will help us find out the answer.
So, a waterproof mascara is able to repel water because it's mainly
composed of waxes and oils.
So if a mascara claims to be waterproof,
it really shouldn't come off in the presence of water.
Dozens of mascaras make extreme
claims about their waterproofing powers.
So, for the purpose of this test,
we've picked three products across a range of prices.
Those are Estee Lauder Sumptuous Extreme Waterproof Mascara,
which costs £22 and claims,
"Extreme waterproofing for all wet conditions."
Bourjois Volume Clubbing Waterproof Mascara,
which costs £7.99 and claims to be "100% sweat and tear proof,"
and tested at foam parties.
And NYC Showtime Waterproof Mascara, which costs £1.99
and claims to have "exclusive volume matrix waterproofing technology".
We'll of course also be comparing these to
2True Wow Waterproof Mascara,
which retails at £3 and makes no extreme claims.
First up, the lab tests.
Dr Laura's applied equal amounts of each mascara
to these four toothbrushes.
She'll now dip them into water to see just how waterproof
they really are.
So we'll just leave these in here for a minute,
just to see if anything happens,
if any of the ingredients come away from the mascara.
So, first of all, we'll touch it onto our paper here.
If the mascara is doing its job, it shouldn't leave a mark.
The most expensive, the Estee Lauder, performs well in this test.
As does the 2True Mascara, which makes no claims.
There is a very small amount of mascara has come off onto our paper.
The cheapest, NYC Showtime Mascara, which claims to have
"matrix waterproof technology", does slightly less well.
As for the mid-range Bourjois, which claims to be "100% sweat
"and tear proof"...
Ah. Now we have started to see some of this one come off onto our paper.
It's by far the worst performer on our test.
Just look at the residue it's left behind.
So that's the lab, but what about real life?
To find out, we've asked three more volunteers to put them
through their paces.
They apply the 2True Mascara, that makes no claims
and costs £3, to the lashes on one eye.
And on the other, Natalie is wearing the expensive Estee Lauder.
Meg is wearing the mid-range Bourjois Mascara...
and Paige is wearing the cheapest NYC Showtime Mascara.
First up, the onion test.
Ready, steady, chop!
Five onions later, THEY might be in tears.
-As for the mascaras...
-It's all right because none of them have run.
Both eyes are really stinging from the onions,
and water, so they've both tested really well.
Not bad so far.
These mascaras make some pretty strong claims.
So, onions, too easy?
It's time for us to make this challenge a little bit trickier.
Oh, yes. Didn't I mention our volunteers are also water-skiers?
Deal with that, waterproof mascaras!
I've never found a decent waterproof mascara, so this test for me today,
if either of these mascaras work for me then I will definitely buy them.
They're excited, I'm excited, and off they go.
If the waterproof mascaras can survive this,
they'll survive anything.
CLASSICAL MUSIC PLAYS
Nice moves. They've certainly put in a good performance,
but what about the make-up?
She's wearing the £22 Estee Lauder and the £3 mascara,
which makes no claims. Looking good.
Neither of the mascaras have run, despite the £19 price difference.
Next up, Paige, who's come out of the test remarkably unscathed
despite the fact she's wearing the cheapest NYC Showtime Mascara,
which costs £1.99.
And finally Meg, who's wearing the mid-range
£7.99 Bourjois Mascara.
Yes, the product that performed the worst in the lab has also
come bottom in our one-off real life test.
I think, that one, I wouldn't use, because...panda eyes from it.
But that one's all right.
Bourjois say they complete industry standard scientific
tests on all their products,
and that their Clubbing Waterproof Mascara is developed to be
waterproof whilst also allowing easy removal.
2True say they pride themselves on the reliability
and performance of their products, that are both affordable
and comply with the relevant regulations.
So with the £3 product, which makes no claims,
doing just as well as the £22 mascara,
and of course outperforming the mid-range £7.99 product.
According to the results of our tests,
when it comes to waterproofing,
you may want to think whether it's worth splashing out
much on mascara when you go water skiing.
Back to food now, where earlier we saw how you could find an object
or even wildlife you weren't expecting
hidden in the packaged products you buy off the shelf,
but food manufacturers up and down the country do put
a lot of effort into making sure this doesn't happen. How do we know?
Because our cameras have been behind the scenes at one of the biggest.
Premier Foods, they're the company responsible for putting big
brands like Hovis, Sharwood's and Oxo on the supermarket shelves.
And like any other food manufacturer in this country,
they have to comply with strict rules on food safety
and quality at every stage of the process.
Today, head of molecular testing Gordon Wiseman is analysing
these Bisto Best Gravy granules for any traces of horse meat DNA.
Since the horse meat scandal in January last year,
it's a game changer completely.
The... Everyone is now doing much more testing
and much more thorough, and the workload has increased incredibly.
To carry out the test,
Gordon needs to remove the meat DNA from the rest of the ingredients.
I'm going to add some detergent to the Bisto to begin
the extraction process.
To help extract it from the material, we add an enzyme
which will extract the cellular structure that is present.
The DNA is the material.
You can see how it is fallen to the bottom of the tube.
After a little more processing...
..he then uses this laser machine to analyse the DNA solution.
The green line, which is the Bisto Best, is actually negative
and there's no horse or pork present in that sample.
All clear on the horse front,
but here at Premier Foods analytical testing centre, they don't
just look at what a product contains,
but they also look at the taste as well.
But tasting the variety of flavours involves a sense of smell,
which is why this laboratory has its very own nasal appraisal test.
This happens at the product development stage of the process
and is carried out by Ben.
Coriander, lemon, sharp, acidic...
It really gives us an insight into how the consumer perceives the
odour of that particular material, and they are really key
elements in terms of whether people enjoy,
like, or dislike a product.
Once products have been analysed for taste, it's time to produce them.
One of the production lines for Premier Foods is in Stoke.
We produce approximately 700 million cakes a year through this factory,
which is the equivalent to about 13.5 million cakes per week.
Today, we're going to see some of the things that we do to make sure
that the cakes that we manufacture are to the highest possible
standard of consistency and quality, and above all, food safety.
So here's Premier Foods' guide to making
Mr Kipling's Lemon Layered Slices.
First up, the cake mix.
We process about 1,700 or 1,800 kilos of cake batter
through this line every hour.
We have our critical control point here, which is
to re-filter the batter before it goes into the production line.
We do it at this point because it's the very, very last stage,
when it's still a liquid.
We're absolutely minimising the risk of anything going into that
cake mix that shouldn't be in the cake mix.
Next, the cake mix is cooked in 20-metre long
ovens at 180 degrees before going to the decorating area.
And then once we've decorated the cake,
it will go through some water cutters.
We use water to cut the cake, rather than metal knives.
It gives a much cleaner cut
and neither do we have to worry about the blade being damaged
and the risk of introducing any metal into the product.
The cakes then move round the production line
and onto the packaging side,
but not before a careful visual inspection by staff,
when any defective articles are promptly removed.
The next phase is distinctly less human.
What we have are eight robots.
These are used to pack them into their final individual packaging,
and they use a laser guidance system that helps the robots locate
exactly where they are on the belt, and then they pick and select them.
The cakes are checked yet again inside their packaging,
this time using metal detectors.
If the sensor does detect some metal,
the detector will activate an air knife
and that air knife then blows the pack off the line.
This system also checks the weight of the cakes.
The target is 105.6g.
Too much or too little, and it's into the reject bin.
If the cakes pass this final check,
they go on to be boxed and distributed.
This is our finished product warehouse, where we
dispatch our materials that then move onwards to our customers.
We've seen the process from start to finish.
That process has taken about two hours in total.
We've shown that the different controls that we have in place
to make sure that the cakes that we manufacture here are being made
to the highest possible standards of quality, and above all, food safety.
If you want more information on the safety of products in the your home,
you can go to our website...
That's all for today. Thanks for watching.
Series in which Sophie Raworth reveals how household products are tested, putting the makers' claims on trial and showing how to get the best value for money. Lynn Faulds Wood looks at the safety of products in the home and the Watchdog campaigns that have been saving lives for more than 30 years.