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While enjoying a breakfast of vegetarian sausage, I noticed on the ketchup bottle the following words "GLUTEN FREE". I'm pretty sure that the combination of tomato paste, vinegar, and sugar would be gluten free, or whomever is making the ketchup is doing it wrong.

That got me thinking about these little food labels that have come up recently on the sides of packages and on the doors of restaurants to warn people of the contents, and I'm not arguing their use for something that's non-obvious. On the side of the vegetarian sausage, it has a note clearly stating that there's soy, milk, eggs, and wheat in there. That's good information that may not be obvious on first glance. This is the kind of thing that folks with those allergies would want to know. I get that.

However, like all good things, some manufacturers go to extremes. Seeing "This product may contain nuts" on the side of a package of peanuts helps nobody who isn't already keenly aware that there might be some nut-like product inside of a package claiming to contain nuts. I'm pretty sure that if I opened up a can of nuts and received nuts instead of being hit by a spring-coiled snake, I wouldn't be thanking the person who graciously warned me on the side of the can that there were nuts inside. I'd much rather they warned me there was a spring-coiled snake inside. "This product contains a lame joke that was played out in the late seventies".

Of course, a perennial favorite is the comments on the facility in which the product is made. "This product manufactured in a facility that processes nuts". Again, this is useful information for someone who may have a strong allergy to nuts, but may not be aware that the potato chip they are enjoying may have been run down a line that processes peanuts on alternate Tuesdays. I have no problem warning folks of something in the manufacturing process that they may not know already. But, I have to wonder how far they might take it someday:

"This product processed in a factory containing Joe. Joe likes to eat Planters Peanuts while processing our tasty potato chips. He also is a loud drunk and recites bad beat-poetry. Nobody knows why we keep Joe. In fact, if we fired Joe, we wouldn't need this notice at all. Do you think we should keep Joe? Please call our customer hotline at 1-800-... ."

I wonder too if we get a little peek into the making of our food when we'll hit the point where we'll get too much information. Will we be seeing notices about the cleaning practices of the plant? The date the last inspector gave the plant a clean bill of health? Who the idiot was who diverted cow waste into the spinach? And what of those who want to know the faith make-up of the staff preparing their food?

"This product produced in a facility that is 50% Catholic, 30% Protestant, 10% Jewish, 5% Muslim, 4% Hindi, and 1 person who claims she is Wiccan this week."

Good thing I don't have a Catholic allergy.


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