Here at What the Hell Are You Eating we whole heartedly endorse Barack Obama, not only in his choice of food to be caught awkwardly eating but as the leader of the free world. Tell us who you want shoving hot dogs down their chow holes or blue collaring around a waffle.
Food In The News: Fuck Hershey’s September 19, 2008
Chocoholics sour on new Hershey’s formula
Former fans kissed off about replacement of cocoa butter with vegetable oil.
Bitter reaction to cheap chocolate
Sept. 19: Hershey’s, America’s top chocolate maker, is switching to cheaper ingredients in some of its products. TODAY consumer correspondent Janice Lieberman reports.
Oh, milk chocolate. Wherefore art thou?
Apparently not in some Hershey’s products that contained milk chocolate for years, and that has passionate chocolate aficionados fighting mad.
Products such as Whatchamacallit, Milk Duds, Mr. Goodbar and Krackel no longer have milk chocolate coatings, and Hershey’s Kissables are now labeled “chocolate candy” instead of “milk chocolate.”
What’s going on here? On Friday, TODAY consumer correspondent Janice Lieberman reported that Hershey’s has switched to less expensive ingredients in several of its products. In particular, cocoa butter — the ingredient famous for giving chocolate its creamy, melt-in-your-mouth texture — has been replaced with vegetable oil.
The removal of cocoa butter violates the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s definition of milk chocolate, so subtle changes have appeared on the labels of the Hershey’s products with altered recipes. Products once labeled “milk chocolate” now say “chocolate candy,” “made with chocolate” or “chocolatey.”
Some say the label changes are too difficult to spot.
“A lot of people don’t notice it. The package looks exactly the same,” said Cybele May, who has chronicled the changes in detail on her Candy Blog. “I feel betrayed by Hershey’s. They’re giving me an inferior product and they’re not even telling me …
“I call it mockolate, which is basically a fake chocolate product.”
Crunched by rising costs
In a statement, Hershey’s told TODAY that consumers love its products and all its candies are clearly labeled. It still offers real milk chocolate in Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and its classic chocolate bar.
“And recently it put back the milk chocolate in Almond Joy because consumers complained,” Lieberman said Friday in her report.
Experts say that while many manufacturers cope with higher costs by increasing their prices or reducing their product sizes, Hershey’s change was meant to be less noticeable to customers.
“Clearly food costs, commodities costs have been rising for some time now,” Harry Balzer of the market research firm The NPD Group told TODAY. “The real question is, how will they pass along these costs to consumers without hurting their profits?”
May said the recipe change has ruined the Hershey’s taste for her. But in a blind taste test conducted by TODAY, about half of the participants said they liked the new Hershey’s Kissables even better than the Kissables with cocoa butter.
Nevertheless, some taste-testers were alarmed to learn about the switch from cocoa butter to vegetable oil. One woman said she felt “kind of cheated.”
Fudging the standards?
In terms of calories and fat content, the change from cocoa butter to vegetable oil hasn’t affected the candies significantly. Nutritionists do point out that cocoa butter can offer health benefits — specifically by protecting chocolate’s antioxidant properties. What’s more, cocoa butter doesn’t raise cholesterol levels.
Last year, a number of industry groups lobbied for a change to the FDA’s definition of chocolate — a change that would have allowed cocoa butter to be replaced with vegetable oil. At the time, Hershey’s spokesman Kirk Saville told the Harrisburg Patriot-News that “there are high-quality oils available which are equal to or better than cocoa butter in taste, nutrition, texture and function, and are preferred by consumers.”
The proposed definition change caused a furor among chocolate connoisseurs, who sent hundreds of outraged letters to the FDA. In June 2007, the agency assured them that they had nothing to fear.
“Chocolate lovers need not be alarmed about the future of their favorite product,” the FDA said in a consumer update. “Cacao fat, as one of the signature characteristics of the product, will remain a principal component of standardized chocolate.”
Food In The News: You can pick your nose, you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your friend’s nose, though you could apparently pick them some chilis after a moderately long drive to New Mexico. September 2, 2008
New Mexico farm spices up you-pick concept
- Story Highlights
- “You-pick” chile peppers are a mainstay at Joe Lujan Farms in Las Cruces
- Between August and October, the farm bustles with customers
- Okra, squash, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and pecans are also available
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (AP) — In some parts of the country, a balmy September afternoon might be spent picking pumpkins or apples.
The sun sets over Lujan Farms chili fields.
But in this corner of New Mexico, people have flocked to Joe Lujan’s “you-pick” farm in Las Cruces for the past 45 years to hand-pick chili peppers.
Nestled between pecan groves and surrounded by desert, Joe Lujan Farms is 40 acres filled with five varieties of chili as well as squash, okra, onions, tomatoes, cucumbers and a small pecan orchard.
Between August and October, the farm bustles with customers either out in the fields or milling around the farm store, chatting as they wait for the fruits of their labor to be roasted and packed.
Farmer Joe Lujan, 75, greets customers with a handshake or hug, asking about their family and health as he makes his way around the store. His wife, Martha, seems to know every person who comes in to register, while farm dogs Buddy and Bandit soak up frequent pats and head scratches.
Besides the friendly conversation and relaxing atmosphere, Lujan said his farm offers customers something they won’t find at a grocery store: freshness and selection.
“They see where it’s grown with their own eyes and pick it with their own hands. They don’t need a sign in a store to tell them how fresh it is,” Lujan said.
For some families in this part of the country, eating chili is a daily ritual. And Lujan has many customers who come religiously each year throughout the season to stock up.
“We’ve got to have our chili — it’s our staple,” said Rosalinda Martinez of Alamogordo, who buys four 50-pound bags of hot green chili from the farm every year.
A sweet and spicy, pungent aroma fills the air as the picked green chili is roasted outdoors on site. Pounds of chili peppers are placed in a large, metal mesh barrel which rotates horizontally over a propane-fueled flame for about five minutes. The flame blackens the chili skin, or peel, which is removed before the pepper is used in sauces, stews or simply eaten whole.
Martha Lujan said on average the farm sells roughly 12,000 pounds of chili per acre, with most sales generated through word of mouth and repeat customers. Those who can’t make it here to pick their own can order it sent to them. The farm has shipped pre-ordered 30-pound boxes of fresh or frozen green chili to customers in every state in the country.
Joe Lujan said his family started the “you-pick” business model to save on labor costs, which can be especially tough for small farmers. The farm used to have 100 acres contracted to a food production company in California, but Lujan said he stopped a decade ago because the company “wouldn’t pay us what we needed to break even and make a little money.”
“The ‘you-pick’ is the reason I’ve been able to do this for so long,” he said, gesturing to the customers in the field.
New Mexico has a small number of “you-pick” farms across the state, offering customers everything from apples to raspberries to pumpkins.
Most successful “you-pick” farms are located near large cities, offer more than one commodity and have staggered plantings in order to keep a steady flow of customers, says Terry Crawford, an agricultural business professor with New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. Crawford said less than 5 percent of the chili production in New Mexico goes into the fresh market, including the peppers sold at commercial grocery stores. The majority of the chile acreage in the state is contracted out to processing plants.
“Most people who go out to pick fruits and vegetables use it as a recreational activity, so you’ll get all kinds of customers on the weekend and no one on Wednesday,” Crawford said. “It’s a cheap way to get exercise, entertainment and food with little cost. The trick is getting the customer to come out and pick versus when the crop is actually ready.”
In addition to several chili roasting and packing employees, Lujan has hired a small crew of chili pickers to harvest the fields regularly to avoid sacrificing his yields. This allows the farm to sell already picked chili and vegetables to customers who’d rather not venture into the field.
Lujan says he stays in the farming business because of tradition and those closest to his heart. Joe and Martha’s youngest daughter, Lucinda, and her daughter Amanda live and work on the farm. Joe said anytime he gets discouraged, he remembers how much his grandchildren enjoy the farm.
“Farming,” he said, “is a family tradition.”
If you go …
Joe Lujan Farms: 1200 Lujan Hill Road, Las Cruces, N.M. Open every day except Wednesdays and Thursdays, 7 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Shipping orders taken by phone: (575) 526-5918.
My favorite is probably catfish on a stick, which sounds like a really easy way to eat it actually. Or the giant corn dog that looks suspiciously like a dong due to some incidental shading from the method the consumer used to apply the catsup. Most of these are completely ridiculous. Why would I dump a ball of spaghetti in some batter, fry it up in a ball and stick on a stick? Everyone knows I eat my spaghetti out of a cup.
Food In The News: I wish I had as much time on my hands is these girls, oh, wait, I mean as much money. August 26, 2008
DNA testing uncovers suspect sushi
- Story Highlights
- Two teenage girls decided to test 60 samples of seafood
- They used a genetic fingerprinting technique to see if the fish were labeled correctly
- Samples were collected from four restaurants and 10 grocery stores
- The results showed 25 percent of the girls’ samples were mislabeled
NEW YORK (CNN) — Two teenage girls used DNA bar coding to determine that some sushi on New York dinner plates was mislabeled with cheaper fish being passed off as a more expensive species.
Results show that half of the restaurants and six of 10 grocery stores sold items that were mislabeled.
Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss were not science majors or even college students when they decided to take 60 samples of seafood and use a genetic fingerprinting technique to see whether the fish were labeled correctly.
The graduates of Manhattan’s Trinity School in New York were inspired by Kate Stoeckle’s father, Mark, a scientist and proponent of the use of DNA bar coding, a technique that greatly simplifies the process of identifying a species.
“Growing up, bar coding was dinner conversation, so I was familiar with it,” Stoeckle said. “And then one night, while out to dinner, I asked, could we barcode sushi? Louisa and I love sushi, and we thought, why not apply the bar coding technology to see what food we’re eating?”
After collecting samples from four restaurants and 10 grocery stores, spending about $300, the teens sent them to the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, where the Barcode of Life project began and where a graduate student had agreed to conduct the genetic analysis.
The girls’ samples were compared with the global library of 30,562 bar codes representing nearly 5,500 fish species.
According to Mark Stoeckle, DNA is extracted chemically. The bar code gene, a chemical code, is amplified in a process called Polymerase Chain Reaction.
A machine examines the DNA sequences called bases, which are a series of letters, A, G, C and T, and then digitally matches them with a library of DNA bar codes or other series of letters. The bar code itself is very long, with 648 letters.
The results showed that 25 percent of the girls’ samples were mislabeled: half of the restaurant samples and six out of 10 grocery store samples.
In every case, less desirable or cheaper fish was substituted for its more expensive counterpart, Stoeckle said. She and her father would not divulge the names of vendors, citing a fear of lawsuits.
“It’s not the fishermen, and it might not even be the restaurants,” she said. “Most likely, the mislabeling is occurring somewhere at the distribution level.”
For example, fish sold as white tuna turned out to be cheaper Mozambique tilapia, flying roe fish was replaced with smelt, and red snapper was mislabeled as Atlantic cod and Acadian redfish, an endangered species.
“They are the first to do it,” Mark Stoeckle said of the girls. “It’s like ‘CSI’ for fish.”
He said the process could become as common as GPS.
“Many people are working on miniaturizing it, bring the cost down and the speed to process up,” he said.
“Sequencing is a chemical process. There is no reason why we can’t check the food on our plate [and] send the signal out to a database electronically. GPS used to be as big as refrigerators and only used by the government. Now it’s a common application in a phone.”
The students worked under Jesse H. Asusubel of Rockefeller University, a champion of DNA bar coding.
They say the project wasn’t work. “It didn’t feel like a chore. It wasn’t time-consuming at all,” Stoeckle said. “I’m hoping to get more public interest so it can become cheaper and more common.”
Asked whether she’s less inclined to eat sushi, she said, “I’ve eaten it, like, 50 times since, so I don’t think so.”
Food In The News: Subway Drops the Hammer August 23, 2008
Subway serves, arguably, the worst sandwiches readily available to the public on a daily basis. Perhaps a case could be made for Mr. Goodcents being the worst, but let’s be honest, the sheer volume of mediocre bullshit coming out of Subway Sandwich shops is astounding. My initial favorite part of this “news” story was when Peterson said that he’s not going, “to pay 12 dollars for ten dollar sandwiches.” Really? I think you actually just paid 12 dollars for a couple of two dollar sandwiches. But then my favorite part turned out to be the reporter doing the take as he walks out of the Subway door and tries to act really incredulous about Peterson calling a second and third time to 9-1-1. He really can’t pull it off. He should have saved some of that incredulity for his hair stylist, I mean, look at that terrible wig he’s wearing.