Day 139: chili and paper ingredients

Today’s menu: chili, tortilla chips, corn/carrots, fruit cup

Do you spy what I spy? Yep, a paper tray. I really couldn’t believe my eyes. I gasped. Styrofoam is the go-to when there’s a dishwashing issue or if the lunch ladies put together a lunch for me when they see me enter the cafeteria (before I grab an orange tray). I know, what service! I have to say that the plastic trays stack up quickly in my room and I don’t get back to the lunchroom that often…certainly not with a conspicuous stack of orange trays. On the other hand I have saved all of my styrofoam trays for who knows what (postcards possibly!).

I’m hoping that paper will be the permanent substitute for styrofoam when there is need for a back-up lunch trays. I’m thinking it’s way more expensive to offer paper, but at least it breaks down in a landfill unlike polystrene. Hip, hip hooray for paper!

The chili was good and easy to eat with the chips. Everything went down in about 10 minutes…or less. Today I was so immersed in my job that I forgot all about my internet-alter-ego. All of a sudden when there was a break, I remembered with a jolt, “Oh, I’m Mrs. Q…” I have to say that sometimes I just want to go back to normal…

In a big hurry today so I didn’t take a lot of pictures

I’m listening to the Omnivore’s Dilemma on audiobook while driving to work. It’s not for the faint of heart: the book is interesting, but I feel like it is exponentially more depressing than Food, Inc. He brought up labeling briefly and mentioned that some companies will print on packages “and/or” because it gives them latitude with ingredients based on cost. For example, if one ingredient goes up in price, they can use a substitute that is cheaper to maintain a consistent low cost to the consumer and without changing the packaging.
I thought to myself, “wouldn’t it be interesting if I could find a product with ‘and/or’ in the ingredient list?” Well, today was my lucky day in more ways than one!

It should be noted that chip bags, chocolate wrappers, and branded containers are not made at the same place as the food that they hold. In one of the cities I lived in as a child (I moved around a lot), there was a medium-sized printing factory (big employer for the community). When I found out that the factory printed things like Snickers and KitKat wrappers on big sheets of foil/paper/whatever but didn’t produce the chocolate inside them at the same time. I was young and it was one of many does-not-compute moments (picture: dog cocking head to one side).

We know it’s difficult it is to get ingredient lists for school food. They aren’t distributed to parents, they aren’t posted in the cafeteria, and they aren’t on the school district’s website. But then there are companies like Frito-Lay who print ingredient lists with “and/or” and they make it even harder for people with food allergies. I tried to do a google search for information about any food labeling acts. I feel like a couple years ago there was an act in front of Congress about more standardized food labeling, which was defeated due to food companies’ lobbying efforts. I could only find the FDA’s website. Labeling should be all about the end consumer, not a company’s convenience!

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15 thoughts on “Day 139: chili and paper ingredients

  1. Omnivore's gets more fun as it goes on, I think he saves the fun stuff as a reward after inundating you with information about corn and fertilizer. 😉

  2. I was reading the other day about how a national law would require restaraunts to post nutritional information (at least the calorie count) by sometime in 2011. I wonder if that would aply to school lunch?

  3. Thanks guys! Hopefully the book does get better! And posting ingredient lists in cafeterias only makes sense

  4. My best friend is deathly allergic to many things, including soy (soybean oil) and corn (corn oil and some vegetable oils), so she can't buy any products with an and/or label. (Plus milk, wheat, pork, shellfish, and about 10 different fruits and veggies) She's already incredibly limited on what she can buy. She reads labels every time she goes to the store, and there's only a few brands of things she can buy packaged. She has to check every time because she's noticed that brands can change from using one type of oil to an and/or label without warning. So yes, those labels really suck for people with allergies.

  5. When I saw that bag I was thinking, what if someone was allergic to soy. They could virtually never eat these "just in case". Wouldn't it be nice to know when they COULD eat it? You're right, labelling should be for the consumer's benefit. And I think it should be honest.

    Imagine if you gave out grades like "Susie got an A and/or a B" based on whatever you felt like that quarter.

  6. I'm reading In Defense of Food. Still waiting for Omnivore to get in. I'm looking forward to it. 🙂

    Hooray for paper trays. At least you can recycle them. 🙂

  7. Mrs. Q, the first time I read Omnivore's Dilemma, I read a "young-person-version" from the library. I had ordered it on-line without realizing it was for junior high kids!!! Anyway, it turned out to be a good thing!!! It was a great read. I have since purchased the "grown-up" version and it is harder to get through. Same amazing info though. You might be able to find the youth version at your library to get an overall view of the omnivore's dilemma. I found it very helpful.

  8. It's nice to see that they substituted paper trays for styrofoam. Still, it would be better (and cheaper in the long run) if they bought more plastic trays so that they wouldn't run out.

  9. I am glad that you mention allergies, because that is so true! My family on the other hand has given up highly processed polyunsaturated vegetable oils. So when I see a package labeled sunflower oil/ soybean oil I get very frustrated!! Sunflower is a MONO unsaturated fat and we are still eating that, but soybean oil is off limits. So when I see the and/ or, I just put it down!

    For anyone wondering why my family would go to great lengths to eliminate Polyunsaturated oils, Google "The Oiling of America", which is a great article on the topic.

  10. I loved reading the Omnivore's Dilemma! Having so many allergies to food additives and not wanting to take OTC allergy medicine for the rest of my life, I've had to start cooking everything from scratch .. and making items such as mayo. Even when a product says 'natural flavoring' .. it's probably laced with MSG. I wish I could find organic corn products (tortillas, masa, chips, etc.) not cooked with canola, corn or soy oil. Shopping in the market is like walking into a mine field. Having a garden is the biggest boon to healthy eating. Canning beans .. buying from a local farm .. beef/pork/chicken/eggs .. a place you can talk with the farmer/rancher about what they feed their animals .. knowing that the ground beef in my freezer is from one cow .. not a hundred off a big ag ranch .. makes eating a lot better. Shopping for whole foods and even buying organic meat is much less expensive than buying ready made products. Just more time consuming to prepare .. but the trade off is worth it.

  11. We have the same issue, never can buy "and/or" stuff just in case.
    I gave up on the idea of my kids eating school lunches, simply because the school district is apparently unable to provide and ingredient list, as what they get changes constantly depending on price.

  12. After reading Omnivore, I've never looked at a cornfield the same way –I used to see lush produce, now I see mono-culture.

    Food Politics, Marion Nestle's blog, covers all the politics of the various attempts at labeling laws. Trolling through her blog (and you can check certain topics) can be very informative –you know, in your spare time 🙂

  13. Mrs. Q. you might want to ask your art teacher (if you have one in your school) if she would like the foam to do a print making unit. Great for kids to make their own prints for Christmas/holiday cards or Valentines. They also make great snowflakes.

    Food labels bother me. So many of them seem to over report…just to cover the company just in case there is a reaction. At one point it seemed that DD1 couldn't eat any bagged item, even pretzels, because it was made on a line that also bagged nut products. It made a hard situation even harder to deal with, because she couldn't eat anything similar to what other kids were eating, and SHE wanted to…Was very aware of being different and didn't like it. Now the other child, didn't care, doesn't mind, and has no food allergies.

  14. non organic corn, soy and canola are 3 of the big 5 genetically modified foods. sad to see them there on the ingredient list, but i suppose it's expected.

  15. I'm late on this, but I wanted to chime in on the and/or thing.

    I have food allergies and sensitivities as well (soy, among others, so this is pretty directly relevant to my interests) and I'd prefer the and/or labeling to changing the ingredients each time with no other packaging change, because then at least I can buy a brand and stick with it. What I want is for them to have to out a nice, big, obnoxious and hand-to-miss sign on the front of the package when they change ingredients…then I might want to do away with the and/or but now it lets me know which brands of chips I can consistently eat because soybean oil isn't one of their and/or choices. (Plain potato chips are generally the safest starch for me to buy in a convenience store or vending machine situation.)

    I also wish a spice allergy on whatever jerk decided that "natural flavors" and "herbs and spices" were acceptable things to put on ingredient lists. I specifically wish a paprika allergy on them as I have one and I'm really, really, sick of not being able to buy flavored food.

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