Next time you shop for a whole chicken or boneless chicken breasts in a supermarket meat section, give the ­labels a quick read. Buried in the small print of some, you might find phrases like “enhanced with up to 15% chicken broth.” The poultry company has pumped fluid into the chicken to increase its weight. Some of that chicken you’re paying for actually is water.

Consumer-products manufacturers typically have three ways to boost profits on each unit sold. They can increase prices…reduce the amount of product included in the package but charge the same price…or dilute the product by replacing expensive ingredients with cheaper ones. That third option has been popular of late. Examples…

  • A new nonconcentrated version of Dawn dish detergent called Dawn Simply Clean looks like well-known Dawn Ultra on store shelves but is more ­watery. A larger quantity must be used to get dishes clean.
  • Some varieties of Breyers “ice cream” are no longer officially ice cream. Breyers has reduced its butterfat content by so much that by FDA rule, it must be called “light ice cream” or “frozen dairy desert” instead. This is not a “diet” product. Breyers has another line that is labeled “½ the fat.”
  • Procter & Gamble recently started selling certain varieties of Tide liquid detergent in 92-ounce jugs, an 8% reduction from past 100-ounce jugs, even as prices climbed. On top of this, the new bottles wash 48 loads, compared with 60 loads for the old ones, a 20% drop that exceeds the 8% reduction in detergent quantity. This suggests that the detergent might have been diluted.
  • What to do: Pay close attention to labels and ingredients, particularly when a product you have purchased many times doesn’t seem to be as effective or enjoyable as in the past. Or type this disappointing product’s name into a search engine to see if other consumers are voicing similar complaints. Call or e-mail consumer-products companies to complain when you purchase a diluted product. They might send you coupons good for free products.

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