Category Archives: Your Health

Have You Driven A Ford… Lately ?

Well, if you have, better check your tires.

Or your tires’ valve stems, to be more specific. Those are the rubber and brass stalks that you connect an air hose to, when inflating your tires. See this article about the problem (Detroit News, 10/22/08). Here’s an investigation by WCVB-TV in Boston, which claims there may be up to 30 million potentially defective valve stems in use. Who is responsible for all this ? Blame August Schrader, at least indirectly.

WCVB-TV)

A valve stem exhibiting cracking (photo: WCVB-TV)

FoMoCo, or The Ford Motor Company, the automobile manufacturer that gave America what this Wikipedia article calls “the barbecue that seats four”, the exploding Ford Pinto of the 1970’s, is back in the news because of another possible safety problem.

It seems that at least 1.05 million 2007 model year Ford vehicles, including a dozen different Ford models, may have been assembled with Chinese-made rubber valve stems that are falling apart after about a year of use. Apparently, Shanghai Baolong Automotive Corp. (a subsidiary of Topseal Auto Parts), the Chinese company that made them for Ford, might have had a quality problem which allows the rubber to dry out and crack after being exposed to the atmosphere for a few months. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating the problem since at least early September, meeting with Ford officials on Sept. 10. The NHTSA has asked Ford for information about the valve stems, but is not requiring a response from Ford until early next year.

Ford has acknowledged complaints from vehicle owners, but would not say how many reports they have received involving possibly defective valve stems. They have also said that they don’t think it is a safety issue. Well, if you’re not a driver of, or a passenger in a Ford vehicle, we would probably agree with them.

Here’s a report sent to the NHTSA by a Massachusetts company that looked into the valve stem problem. From reading their report, which contains comments from affected vehicle owners, it would appear that the company, Safety Research & Strategies, Inc. of Rehoboth, Massachusetts, was retained by the NHTSA to look into the problem, but we are not certain that this is the case.

It’s never a good thing when your valve stems decide to let loose while you’re traveling down the highway at 65 MPH. Come to think of it, there’s probably never a good time for your tires to suddenly go flat. For the sake of anyone traveling in a Ford vehicle, hopefully any leaks will be minor, and will be noticed before causing a catastrophe.

The bean counters at Ford that decided they could save 2 cents (or whatever) on each valve stem if they bought them from China, must be mighty proud of themselves. Now, at a time when the American automobile industry is already hurting big time, Ford may end up having to spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to recall more than a million vehicles, to replace parts that cost a few pennies each. Then there’s the public’s loss of trust, which will probably cost them much more than that. Smart. Real Smart.

We don’t mean to single out Ford for what may be foolish cost cutting. We’re sure the entire American auto industry is guilty of similar bad decisions.

Despite the fact that you can see and touch the valve stems to inspect them, if large numbers of vehicles require valve stem replacement, it will be a logistical and financial nightmare for the companies involved. It will require removing all of the tires from the vehicle, including the spare, dismounting the tires from the wheels, removing and replacing the valve stems, remounting the tires on the wheels, balancing all of the wheels, and then reinstalling them on the vehicle. There’s no shortcuts to the process. And where do you get five million high quality valve stems in a hurry ? Tire shortages are another possibility, if valve failures or recall campaigns result in large numbers of tires being replaced as a result of the problem.

In addition, if defective, damaged or worn tires are present, we would think that remounting them on a vehicle could pose a liability issue for Ford or any other company doing the recall(s). Telling an owner that brings in their vehicle for a set of no-charge replacement valve stems that they will have to spend six, seven or eight hundred dollars for new tires is sure to create big problems, even if it’s absolutely true and necessary. And with the economy the way it is, you can bet there are plenty of Americans riding around on tires that have seen better days.

If Ford ends up recalling more than a million vehicles to replace the valve stems, it will be interesting to see where the replacement parts come from. Will Ford have learned a lesson, and use American made valve stems, or will they just buy a couple of million more Chinese valve stems? Nothing would surprise us.

It also wouldn’t surprise us if this potential problem is not limited to 2007 model year vehicles, or to vehicles manufactured only by Ford. It might even involve any vehicles that have had new tires installed in the last few years, since tire dealers will normally replace the valve stems when installing new tires.

That hissing sound you hear coming from your garage just might not be a snake, after all.

– Routing By Rumor

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Automobile Manufacturers, Business, Cars, China, Money, News, Routing by Rumor, The Economy, Your Health

Here’s Proof That Tasers Can Kill !

And tasers don’t just kill the people they are fired at.

We have written here previously, and here also, about our concerns regarding the increasing use of tasers by the nation’s police departments. We feel the weapons are too ripe for abuse and misuse to justify their use by police. We believe, as do many human rights organizations, that they can be used as weapons of torture, and that they can be lethal. We believe that many police officers, whether out of fear, ignorance, a desire to punish, or for their own amusement, have, and will continue to misuse the weapon.

Last Thursday, New York City police tasered an emotionally disturbed, naked man perched on a building ledge, who then fell to his death on the sidewalk below. Iman Morales (also spelled as “Inman” and “Iam” Morales in news reports), 35 years old, and a resident of Brooklyn, had fled from his apartment via the fire escape, screaming “you’re gonna kill me” to the approaching police. He was perched on the ledge, armed with nothing more than a fluorescent light bulb when he was shot with the taser. If you’ve ever handled fluorescent tubes, you probably know just how fragile they are. We can’t imagine anyone causing much damage with one.

No doubt Mr. Morales was having a bad day, and the police that responded to the call were about to have a bad day. The catalyst that turned a bad day into a tragic day was the availability of a taser, and the apparently misguided eagerness to use it. We doubt any police officer in their right mind would have even considered pulling their 9mm or their .38 and opening fire, yet the use of a taser was apparently considered acceptable, at least to the ranking officer at the scene. The end result was the same, nonetheless.

And yes, of course you can see amateur video of the incident on youtube, proving once again that Andy Warhol was correct. Here’s more news coverage posted on youtube. (We think that venues such as youtube have become the 21st century’s court of public opinion. Little of consequence occurs these days which doesn’t quickly show up on a youtube video. It also gives an ordinary citizen as much of a voice as the most powerful media outlets. Is the Internet great, or what?)

Morales’ mother, Olga Negron, had called police seeking help for her disturbed son, who reportedly had a history of psychiatric problems. Instead of the help his mother was seeking, quite tragically, Mr. Morales got exactly what he feared from the police. Was this a self-fulfilling prophecy, or was Mr. Morales just an excellent judge of character? We’ll never know.

New York City Police Department brass have acknowledged the tasering of Mr. Morales, under the circumstances, appears to have violated department guidelines on the use of the weapon. We think it violated common sense, human decency, good police work and the law.   Lieutenant Michael Pigott, the 46-year-old police officer with 21 years on the force, who ordered the use of the taser against Mr. Morales, was stripped of his gun and shield, and placed on desk duty. Nicholas Marchesona, the police officer who actually fired the Taser was also put on desk duty but kept his gun and badge, and, we assume, his taser.

This morning, on the day that Mr. Morales was to be buried, and less than a week after the deadly incident, Michael Pigott, the police lieutenant who ordered the use of the taser against Iman Morales, committed suicide (also see WCBS coverage of the suicide). Since the homicide last week, Mr. Pigott had told reporters that he was “truly sorry for what happened” to Iman Morales. This New York Times story provides some background information about Lt. Pigott.

Did guilt drive Mr. Pigott to commit suicide? Did the public shame of having video of the incident show up on youtube play a role? A suicide note reportedly mentioned concern about facing charges for his role in Mr. Morales’ death. We will probably never know for certain what drove him to take his own life, or for that matter, what possessed him to order the inappropriate use of the taser against a disturbed individual who posed little threat to anybody but himself. We think it’s fair to say that both Mr. Morales, and Mr. Pigott were killed by a taser, even if that won’t be the proximate cause of death listed on either death certificate. (A physician once told us that death certificates often fail to accurately identify the true cause of death.)

There are many who still believe the taser is a non-lethal weapon. Has anyone asked the Pigott family or the Morales family if they believe that?

From all accounts we’ve read by people that knew them, both Mr. Morales and Mr. Pigott were decent men.  Had it not been for the terribly misguided decision to arm New York City police with tasers, both men would likely be alive today.  That is the real tragedy.

How many dead bodies need to pile up on American streets, before our government acknowledges the fact that the taser, and similar devices, are indeed lethal weapons ? Our laws should treat the taser as a lethal weapon, regardless of who is pulling the trigger.

– Routing By Rumor

P.S. – Here’s an article by another WordPress blogger, that details the taser death of a man by police at an airport in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. His crime appears to be that he could not speak English, which seems to be a capital offense in Canada (with the exception of Quebec).

1 Comment

Filed under Health, Law Enforcement, New York City, News, Politics, Routing by Rumor, Technology, Your Health

Newspapers Are Now Obsolete. Introducing News Headlines Mad Libs !

With apologies to Andy Rooney

Ya ever notice how the same news keeps showing up in your newspaper day after day ?

…and how it always seems to get worse ?

Well, the newshounds at RoutingByRumor have figured out how to save you some money, and save some trees at the same time. Instead of buying a newspaper every day, why not try this update of the word game “Mad Libs” to get your latest news.

If you’re one of the few people on the planet who have never heard of Mad Libs, read this before you continue. And yes, the Web does indeed have everything, including the kitchen sink. There is even an official Mad Libs website.

And remember… “no news is good news”.

THE “MAD LIBS” U.S. NEWS HEADLINES

CONSUMER NEWS

The __________________ Corporation (fill in the name of a food or consumer goods company that has shipped all of it’s manufacturing to China) has announced the recall of ____________________ (fill in the name of a food product or child’s toy) due to possible __________________ contamination (fill in the name of a poison or carcinogen) or choking hazard. Consumers are advised to return the product to the store where they bought it.

ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS

Scientists monitoring the effects of global warming today observed the breakup of a ____________________ (fill in a really big number) square mile section of the Arctic ice pack. This is the largest loss of Arctic ice ever observed in a single day, and is further evidence of global warming.

HEALTH NEWS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced the recall of ____________________ (fill in an agricultural product) which is suspected in a recent outbreak of ____________________ (fill in a food-borne illness). There have been ____________________ (fill in a number) suspected cases reported in ____________________ (fill in a number) states.

In an unrelated case, the ____________________ (fill in the name of a meat processor) corporation has announced the recall of ____________________ (fill in a very large number) pounds of ground beef, after tests have indicated possible contamination with e-coli bacteria.

ENERGY NEWS

Crude oil prices have hit another record high, closing yesterday at ____________________ (fill in a very large number) dollars a barrel. Regular grade gasoline is now an average of ____________________ (fill in a very large number) dollars a gallon nationally, and diesel fuel is now averaging ____________________ (fill in a very large number) dollars, across the nation.

FOOD PRICES

Food prices have taken another steep jump in the past month, with a seasonally-adjusted increase of ____________________ (fill in a number) percent. Spurred by steep increases in energy and commodity prices, this is the ____________________th (fill in a number) straight monthly increase in food prices. Recent ____________________ (fill in a weather-related disaster, such as flooding, drought, forest fires, locusts, hail, etc.) in key ____________________ (fill in a food commodity) producing areas has increased the likelihood of further price increases and tight supplies of ____________________ (fill in a commodity) for the foreseeable future.
EMPLOYMENT NEWS

The ____________________ (fill in a major corporation’s name) company today announced plans to lay off another ____________________ (fill in a large number) thousand employees in coming months. Blaming the decision on the sluggish economy and increased foreign competition, they said further workforce reductions might be necessary.

Also, the ____________________ (fill in a major retailer) corporation today announced plans to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. In the latest quarter, they posted losses totaling ____________________ (fill in a really big number) dollars. They also announced plans to close ____________________ (fill in a big number) of their least profitable stores, and lay off ____________________ (fill in a big number) thousand employees.
MILITARY NEWS

The Pentagon has announced that another ____________________ (fill in a number) servicemen have died in fighting in ____________________ (fill in either “Iraq” or “Afgahnistan”). This brings the total death count to ____________________ (fill in a very large number) since the war began. The Pentagon has also announced that the tours of duty for ____________________ (fill in a branch of service) in ______________________ (fill in “Iraq” or “Afghanistan”) will be extended by ____________________ (fill in a number) months.

In a related story, suicide bombers have killed another ____________________ (fill in a number) people in the Iraqi city of ____________________ (fill in the name of a city in Iraq), after detonating ______________________ (fill in “a car bomb” or “explosives strapped to their body”) in a crowd of people gathered for ____________________ (fill in any reason people might gather in a group), and another ____________________ (fill in number) U.S. servicemen have been ____________________ (fill in “killed” or “wounded”) by a roadside bomb in ____________________ (fill in the name of an Iraqi city).

9/11 ATTACKS

The New York City Medical Examiner’s office announced today, that another victim of the September 11th attacks has been positively identified thru the use of DNA testing. Bone fragments belonging to ____________________ (fill in yet another victim’s name), which were recovered from ground zero in the weeks after the attacks, were re-tested using new technologies which were unavailable until now. This brings the confirmed number of victims of the 9/11 attacks to ____________________ (fill in a very large number that should wake up every American to the evil we are up against), making 9/11 the single deadliest enemy attack on U.S. soil in the nation’s history.

In a related story, redevelopment of the former World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan has again suffered a setback, after ______________________ (fill in just about any reason imaginable ) has caused yet another delay in construction activity at the site. The reconstruction plans for ground zero have been mired in controversy, cost overruns, ____________________ (fill in another of the hundreds of reasons for the delays), and complaints from families of 9/11 victims, unhappy with plans for a memorial at the site.

NEWS FROM THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL

____________________ (fill in the name of a U.S. presidential candidate) has declared his intention to ____________________ (fill in either “end the war” or “win the war” or “increase the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan”) within ____________________ (fill in a number) days of being sworn in as President. Speaking from the campaign trail, he spoke to reporters about the growing dissatisfaction among Americans about how the war is going, and promised quick and decisive action to change the course of the war.

Also, in responding to reporter’s questions about ____________________ (fill in an embarrassing or troubling incident that has been dredged up from his past), he denied _____________________ (fill in “ever making the statement” or “ever meeting with the person” or “ever belonging to the group” or “ever voicing support for the group” or “ever practicing that religion” or “ever losing his temper”), blaming those rumors on ____________________ (fill in a political party) supporters trying to derail his campaign.
So there you have it… All the news that’s fit to print, and no need to buy a single newspaper.

– Routing By Rumor

Leave a comment

Filed under 9/11, Business, China, Consumerism, Employment, Energy, Energy costs, Environment, Food, Health, Home, Iraq, Jobs, Journalism, Labor, Life, Military, Money, News, Politics, Retail, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Shopping, Stock Markets, Terrorism, The Economy, The Planet, War, Your Health, Your Money

The Price Of Oil Is Increasing 150% A Year ! Is The $200 Barrel Of Oil Too Far Away ?

It was just over three months ago that we noted that the price of crude oil had passed $100 a barrel for the first time ever. Now, in less than four months, it has increased another 40%, and is closing in on $140 / barrel. Almost every day sees a new record high for the price of crude, and Friday was no exception. That equates to an annual increase in the price of oil somewhere around 150%. Based on the past few months, we think oil might hit $200 a barrel before the end of the year. If you think the U.S. economy is in trouble now, imagine what that will do to it.

Gasoline is at or above $4.00 a gallon in much of the U.S., with predictions of $5.00 to $6.00 a gallon by the end of the summer. It seems that those economic stimulus checks that Uncle Sam and his nephew George W. were kind enough to send y’all are little more than a gift to the oil companies and market speculators. Being able to afford to fill their gas tanks is the number one concern for most Americans now.  You would think that sky high gasoline prices would make a big enough dent in demand that there will be no gasoline shortages.  The truth is that the underlying cause of high prices is a tight supply and global demand for oil.  Because of this, we believe the next gasoline crisis is not too far down the road.

Look what fuel prices have done to the market for larger vehicles. Truck and SUV sales have dried up to the point that the market resembles the real estate market. Car dealers and real estate salespeople have joined the exclusive club once reserved for the Maytag repairman.

If you think increasing food prices and inflation in general are bad now (don’t believe the fairy tale statistics that Washington tries to feed you), just watch what happens over the next few months. Inflation, the cost of energy, and the economy (yes, Virginia, we ARE in a deep economic recession) are such problems that they have succeeded in replacing Iraq on the front page of your newspaper for the past few months.

These concerns have prompted the economic gurus at RoutingByRumor to come up with our top ten list of concerns that Americans are faced with…

  • Skyrocketing gasoline prices (try filling your tank)
  • Skyrocketing food prices (try keeping food on the table)
  • Energy prices (try heating/cooling your home)
  • Inflation (try to keep up)
  • Skyrocketing healthcare costs (try getting sick)
  • The real estate slump (try selling your home)
  • The foreclosure crisis (try holding onto your home)
  • The deteriorating job market (try finding a decent paying job, or any job at all)
  • Stagnant or decreasing wages, benefits and income (especially investment income)
  • The lack of leadership in Washington (try to find a real President)

Gee whiz… terrorism, illegal immigration and global warming didn’t even make the top ten. That’s how bad things are.

– Routing By Rumor

Leave a comment

Filed under 9/11, Automobile Manufacturers, Business, Cars, Consumerism, Employment, Energy, Energy costs, Environment, Food, Health, Home, Iraq, Jobs, Journalism, Labor, Life, Military, Money, News, Politics, Routing by Rumor, Terrorism, The Economy, The Planet, War, Your Health, Your Money

What’s Unilever’s Secret Ingredient in Breyers Ice Cream ?

Mmmm, Mmmm, Mmmm. Natural Tara Gum.

We don’t know about you, but we salivate at the mere mention of the stuff.

Maybe it’s the “natural” qualifier that does it for us. I mean, if Unilever used artificial Tara Gum in their Breyers Ice Cream, we wouldn’t have nearly the same hankering for the stuff. It’s sort of like the ingredient list on some foods that have water as their main ingredient. Don’t just call it water. Call it “Natural spring water”, “Triple filtered, sparkling well water” or something similar.

After posting our recent article about Unilever again shrinking the container size of Breyers Ice Cream, we found other postings on the Web which pointed out that Unilever had also recently changed their Breyers recipe to include the ingredient “tara gum”, which is used as a food thickener, similar to guar gum and locust bean gum.

Of course, you do have to wonder why Breyers, a brand of ice cream that was always so proud of its ingredients, would suddenly find it necessary to add this delectable vegetable gum to their product. We suspect that they have cheapened the recipe, probably cutting down on the dairy cream content.

We also have to wonder about Unilever. Isn’t anything sacred to this food industry behemoth? They’re messing with a brand that has always been held up as being pure and simple. They obviously have little respect for the intelligence of their customers. Do they honestly believe that prefixing “tara gum” with the adjective “natural” is going to convince consumers that this is a desirable ingredient? Why not add “natural crude oil” or “natural snake venom” to the ingredient list while you’re at it? In fact, Breyers’ very own advertisements used to poke fun at competitors who used ingredients like “guar gum” or “vegetable mono- and diglycerides” in their ice cream. Sounds like the pot is calling the kettle black, if you know what we mean. Hypocrites !

If you can stop salivating long enough to finish reading this article, we’ll fill you in on Tara gum. Until we saw the other postings about Unilever using it in Breyers Ice Cream, and then reading it on the ingredient list on a Breyers 1.5 quart carton on our most recent excursion to the supermarket, we had never heard of tara gum.

Does tara gum have anything to do with the 1939 movie “Gone With The Wind” …or is it a reference to a Hindu goddess or a character from the soap opera “All My Children?

No, No and No.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (fao.org) defines tara gum as follows…

Obtained by grinding the endosperm of the seeds of Caesalpinia spinosa (Fam. Leguminosae); consists chiefly of polysaccharides of high molecular weight composed mainly of galactomannans. The principal component consists of a linear chain of (1,4)-beta-D-mannopyranose units with alpha-D-galacto-pyranose units attached by (1 6) linkages; the ratio of mannose to galactose in tara gum is 3:1.

Caesalpinia Spinosa? Endosperm? Polysaccharides? Glactomannans? Mannopyranose?

Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? No wonder Breyers Ice Cream tastes so good. It must be the endosperm.

Oh… and what else are the seeds of this native Peruvian plant useful for? According to this article on wikipedia, “Water from boiled dried pods is also used to kill fleas and other insects“. Maybe feeding Breyers Ice Cream to your dog will take care of that flea problem.

– Routing By Rumor

13 Comments

Filed under Business, Consumerism, Deception Engineering, Food, Health, Life, Money, Personal, Retail, Routing by Rumor, Shopping, Shrinking Products, TV Shows, Uncategorized, Your Health, Your Money

Unilever Shrinks Its Products Again: Breyers Ice Cream Now 25% Smaller !

Good news for all you dieters!

Containers of Breyers Ice Cream now contain 25% fewer calories, 25% less fat, and 25% less sugar.

How was Breyers / Unilever able to come up with a product that tastes just as good, but which contains fewer calories? They simply made the package smaller. Again. (They also added this secret ingredient).

For the second time recently, Breyers Ice Cream has been downsized by Unilever. Reduced. Shrunk.

For as long as this ice cream lover can remember, Breyers Ice Cream was sold in half-gallon (64 ounce) cartons. First, Unilever downsized the half-gallon carton to 1.75 quarts (56 ounces), which was a 12.5% reduction. Now, they have downsized the 1.75 quart carton to 1.5 quarts (48 ounces). This means the original half-gallon carton of Breyers is now 25% smaller at 1.5 quarts. The 1.25 quart carton of Breyers Ice Cream can’t be too far away.

To make things worse, unless we’re mistaken, the price of a carton of Breyers Ice Cream has gone up while the size has shrunk. But even at the same price per carton, a 25% decrease in product equals a 33% increase in price-per-ounce. For instance, even if the cost of a carton of Breyers held steady at a hypothetical price of $4.00, you used to get 64 ounces for that $4.00. But now, you will pay $5.33 for 64 ounces (one-and-a-third cartons), a 33% price increase. Factor in the increase in the price of a carton, and you’re probably paying 40% or 50% more than you did, say, a year ago.

We knew something was up when we opened the door to the freezer case on a recent shopping trip. The Breyers Ice Cream cartons looked smaller. The cartons look more like funnels than ice cream cartons. But it wasn’t until we looked closer that we realized that Unilever was up to their usual tricks. Breyers cartons proclaim things like “with fresh milk & cream”, “All Natural”, etc, usually as far away from where the carton weight is printed as possible. Wasn’t Breyers always made with fresh milk and cream? Why the attention-getting claims? Because Unilever’s usual way of drawing your attention away from the part of the package that states the shrinking weight of any of their products is to print some attention-getting claim somewhere else on the label. In our opinion, a pretty lame example of Deception Engineering on Unilever’s part.

We’ve written previously about shrinking products. Here’s a post from another blogger who wasn’t too thrilled to learn that Breyers cartons have shrunk again.

Sure enough, their 1.75 quart containers of Breyers are now 1.5 quarts. Sneaky. Very sneaky. But we still noticed, so not sneaky enough. We think everyone else will notice too. If not, that’s why we’re here.

Here’s a photo of the downsized Breyers cartons posted at consumerist.com

We put the Breyers back and bought another brand that offered better value.  If you’re wondering whether you can still find a half-gallon of ice cream that is a full half-gallon, the answer is YES ! You can find it here, and it is still less expensive than the downsized brands.

If Unilever does two more downsizings of one-quarter of a quart each, as they have done recently, you will then be getting one quart instead of a half gallon of ice cream. Even at the same price-per-carton, that will be a cost increase of 100%. That’s double.

…but imagine how much easier it will be to carry those grocery bags home.

Thanks, Unilever.

(Psst… Hey Unilever… You should know that each time you downsize one of your products, there will be more and more of your customers who will simply conclude that it’s no longer worth buying. There’s a tipping point, at which the decline in market share begins to accelerate, and the product never recovers. An example of this is the newspaper publishing business. Ad revenues decline, so publishers cut back on content, number of pages, the size and quality of the paper they use to print the publication, etc, while at the same time raising the cover price. Readership declines, which further erodes advertising revenue. Soon, the publisher realizes it’s a loosing battle. It’s reached the vanishing point. Similar dynamics apply to consumer products.)

– Routing By Rumor

12 Comments

Filed under Business, Consumerism, Deception Engineering, Food, Health, Home, Life, Money, News, Personal, Retail, Routing by Rumor, Scams, Shopping, Shrinking Products, The Economy, Your Health, Your Money

What’s In That Little Blue Packet? Sweet Deception !

We’ve written at length about how companies are employing Deception Engineering to try to fool consumers. It’s usually related to a manufacturer’s attempt to camouflage the fact that you are paying more and getting less.

But the newest deception that the bloodhounds at RoutingByRumor have just picked up the scent of takes the art to a whole new level. Now, it seems to us that manufacturers such as Domino Foods, Inc. are playing games that might affect your health, if not your peace-of-mind. This is where we draw a line in the sand, and say enough is enough.

We used to be one of 7-Eleven‘s best customers. We spent a lot of money on 7-Eleven coffee. Then we discovered Quick Chek. They operate more than 100 convenience stores in New York and New Jersey. We believe Quick Chek offers much better value than 7-Eleven or just about any other convenience store. They also have many more coffee flavors than 7-Eleven offers, and a slew of goodies to let you fix your cup of coffee just the way you like it. There’s also other goodies at Quick Chek stores, like totally fee-free ATMs, where you can get cash without worrying about paying exhorbitant fees to the bank that operates their ATMs. (Of course, if your own bank really sucks, they might still hit you up with a fee for having the audacity to use another bank’s ATM. In that case, it may be time to switch banks.)

Now, if you will, let’s talk about color.

Perhaps the best way to instantly communicate is with color.

Yellow means CAUTION. Green means GO. Red means STOP.

You know that a baby dressed in blue is a BOY, and one dressed in pink is a GIRL.

In most big cities, you know to look for a yellow car when you need a TAXI CAB.

Most POLICE OFFICERS wear blue uniforms.

FIRE ALARMS are always painted red.

MONEY is green (well at least it used to be… U.S. currency has started to look tooty-fruity lately.)

MOURNERS wear black.

BRIDES wear white.

SUGAR (remember that? It’s the natural stuff) comes in white packets.

…some people will only use sugar, choosing to avoid all artificial sweeteners. But if you’re trying to limit your intake of calories, trying to avoid a sugar “rush”, or you are diabetic, there are several artificial sweeteners to choose from…

SPLENDA (or generic sucralose) comes in yellow packets.

and as the back of the packet indicates…

Splenda is made with the artificial sweetener sucralose, and distributed by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, a division of Johnson & Johnson, in Fort Washington, PA. Splenda is suitable for people with diabetes.

SWEET N LOW (or generic saccharin) comes in pink packets…

and as the back of the Sweet N Low packet indicates…

Sweet N Low contains saccharin, and comes to you from Cumberland Packing Corp, Brooklyn, NY. Since it doesn’t say that it’s suitable for diabetics, we’ll assume that it’s not.

EQUAL (or generic aspartame) comes in blue packets…

and as the back of the Equal packet indicates…

Equal is “distributed” by Merisant US, Inc, Chicago. IL (does that mean they manufacture it also?). Equal brand sweetener (and similar products) contains the artificial sweetener aspartame. Aspartame, which is a bazillion times sweeter than sugar, gets metabolized by the body into several compounds, including phenylalanine. People who have the genetic disorder phenylketonuria or “PKU” (they are called “phenylketonurics”) must not consume Equal (or any other sweeteners made with aspartame). That is why, in the United States, at least, products containing phenylalanine must carry the warning “PHENYLKETONURICS: CONTAINS PHENYLALANINE“.

The above packet colors are recognized by just about every coffee and tea drinker in the world that have eyes in their head. Those packet colors are as God intended them to be. Anything else would be blasphemy. If you have PKU, using the wrong colored packet could be deadly. If you are allergic to cancer, you might likewise wish to avoid certain colored packets. Of course, there is a school of thought that says everything that is man-made causes cancer. Perhaps, but life is a mine field, full of choices, and you have to make the best choices you can, based on the available information. A little dose of common sense goes a long way, too. Here’s an excellent article about artificial sweeteners and cancer risk from the National Cancer Institute (cancer.gov) of the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH).

With the aforementioned knowledge firmly in your grasp, you know immediately, for instance, that this packet…

…contains saccharin, since it is pink. If you want to check, flip the packet over…

…and sure enough, it contains saccharin, just like Sweet N Low. That’s why the packet is pink.

Now if you pick up this packet…

…you’d be lead to believe it contains aspartame. Flip it over to check…

…yup, it’s aspartame, the same stuff that’s in Equal brand sweetener. That’s why this packet is blue.

But Quick Chek’s little blue packets have looked a little different lately, for instance…

…but hey, it’s still blue, so it must be aspartame. Let’s flip it over just to be safe…

Thought we wouldn’t notice, did ya? There’s no aspartame in THIS little blue packet. It contains saccharin. That’s pretty sneaky, don’t you think? And it raises the following question: Why is this packet blue?

So Quick Chek’s little pink packets, as well as their little blue packets, both now contain saccharin. That sucks, pure and simple. We don’t know if the decision to put saccharin into blue packets was Quick Chek’s idea, Domino Sugar’s (Domino Foods) idea, or a joint decision. At this writing, we also do not know if this practice is more widespread than just Domino or Quick Chek.

Why on Earth would they do something like that? Could it be an honest mistake? Giving them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps they used the wrong color paper to make the packets. You don’t think this may be a case of Deception Engineering, do you? I mean, why in the world would the nice people at Quick Chek (or at Domino Foods) try to fool you about what’s in those little blue packets?  Aren’t these businesses concerned that they are destroying consumer’s trust in their brands… or does the profit motive blind them to any ethical considerations?

Just thinking out loud for a second, could it be because saccharin is a fraction of the cost of aspartame? For instance, Sweet N Low brand sweetener has always been much less expensive than Equal brand or Splenda brand sweeteners, and the same holds true for the generic versions of saccharin versus aspartame. (We don’t believe there’s a generic version of Splenda on the market, since we’ve never seen generic yellow packets of Splenda-like sweetener.)

This is about much more than which sweetener tastes better. There are many consumers who avoid using saccharin because of concerns that it may be a carcinogen. The fact is that from 1981 thru 2000, saccharin was listed by the U.S. government as a possible carcinogen. Products containing saccharin were required to carry the following warning: “Use of this product may be hazardous to your health. This product contains saccharin, which has been determined to cause cancer in laboratory animals.” Saccharin was removed from the carcinogen list after further research failed to confirm any link to cancer, but many people, including this author, avoid all foods containing saccharin. We are not amused with the fact that Domino Foods, Quick Check, and probably other manufacturers and retailers, are apparently trying to slip saccharin past us, no doubt in an effort to save money. If you wish to avoid products containing saccharin, read our related article, “What’s In That Cup Of Diet Soda?“.

We suspect that this article will elicit a lot of comments from readers who are as outraged as we were to discover this deception.

– Routing By Rumor

3 Comments

Filed under Business, Consumerism, Deception Engineering, Food, Health, Life, Money, News, Personal, Retailers, Routing by Rumor, Scams, Shopping, Shrinking Products, Your Health, Your Money