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January 31, 2012

It Struck Me Funny
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 12:11 AM * 50 comments

Freschetta Pizza
Comments on It Struck Me Funny:
#1 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 12:25 AM:

Adding "Than Before" would have blown the copy writing budget.

What really gets me about the label, and others I have seen recently: The warning about heating the thing to an internal temperatures of 160 F.

Do they really expect me to jam a thermometer in each burrito or egg roll I microwave?

#2 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 12:54 AM:

No, but they think that the fact that you didn't jam a thermometer into every burrito and egg roll you microwaved after they told you to means that you can't sue them if you come down with a food-borne illness.

#3 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 01:47 AM:

The Freschetta pizzas I see in my freezer case still come in 1-inch square boxes, so technically I suppose the claim is accurate. The new packaging hasn't shown up in the Safeway I go to. I'll look forward to it.

#4 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 03:34 AM:

There's at least one condom ad hidden in that phrase... no, not in the "internal temperature of 160 F" one!

#5 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 03:35 AM:

Re. heating food etc. : The caterers at our wedding tried to take the food away after it had been out a couple of hours - despite our having specifically arranged for it to be left longer. When we objected - strongly - they tried to claim health and safety: "you probably don't know anything about microbiology but..." My stepmother and I looked at each other then she replied "Well, I'm a doctor, she's a veterinarian, and" - pause while she surveyed the marquee briefly - "about 50% of the people here are doctors, vets, nurses or similar. I think it's safe to say we know a bit more about microbiology than you do."

They then hid the tea and coffee cups before they left. What microbiological safety that was supposed to be for I don't know.

#6 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 05:00 AM:

There used to be a microbiologist at Leeds University who was putting out all sorts of scare stories in the UK media about the micro-organisms found in food, and how dangerous they were.

The opinion in the fields of medicine and food safety seemed to be that he was thinking the whole world was like his petri-dishes, full of yummy food for his bugs, kept at an ideal temperature, and unsullied by competing bacteria. He was seeing the mats of his healthy, thriving, adopted bacterial children, and forgetting what happens to food when it gets eaten.

As with so much of medicine, the dose matters, and after a dose of stomach acid, the bacteria he found in food had to take on an environment designed to break cell walls, while competing with the voracious natives, which cheerfully help us digest food.

It take a pretty big dose of bacteria to get past those defences.

#7 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 08:14 AM:

dcb #5: There may have been a "staff keep the leftovers" issue in play there...

#8 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 10:18 AM:

How about "This package contains 30% less material?"

#9 ::: Claire ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 11:41 AM:

@#6, Dave Bell

There was a food scientist at my own university (Alberta) who was putting out scare stories like that for a while. Drove me batty. She figured that if the turkey had been out of the oven for two hours, you had to throw away whatever you hadn't eaten or refrigerated immediately. So any serious family dinner, you had to toss ALL the leftovers. So utterly, needlessly wasteful!

And the articles were all so serious, take-care-of-your-health and this-is-what-the-experts-say...

Thankfully I haven't heard anything in a couple of years.

#10 ::: --E ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 01:48 PM:

I'm glad to hear that leftovers and standing food aren't quite the mine fields some folks would say they are.

I always went on the theory that if pizza that had sat out all night didn't make me sick when I ate it cold for breakfast the next day, then the whole notion of leftovers being dangerous was quite silly.

(Also, while getting salmonella is no joke, the sheer quantity of raw cookie dough I have consumed in my life spells out how very unlikely it is to be found in raw eggs.)

#11 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 02:11 PM:

David Harmon @7: No, I'm pretty sure it wasn't "staff keep the leftovers." The ServSafe training that food service workers get is very clear about food that's been left at a temperature between 40 and 140 degrees F (actually they've revised this but it's only up or down a degree or two on each end) for over two hours has to be considered unsafe, the exceptions being things like raw produce and dry baked goods that just aren't good hosts for certain sorts of bacteria. However, if the cooked foods had been maintained in chafing dishes or bain-maries, that should have kept the window open longer, and if they hadn't been, why the hell hadn't they? Same goes for needs-refrigeration foods not being maintained on ice. The only thing I can think of that would be offered at room temp without heat or ice would be things like sandwiches or deli platters, and the answer for THAT if you want a food service window longer than two hours is to have backup platters in reserve to be put out when the first ones have had their time.

So I'm pretty sure it was a liability issue, not a guarding-their-perquisites issue, but if they'd been told to offer a longer service window they should have planned how to make that possible.

#12 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 03:11 PM:

One used to be able to arrange with certain caterers that any appropriate (i.e. still good) leftover food from weddings and other events be taken to certain shelters in the area to supplement whatever was on offer there. Wonder if that's still true.

#13 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 05:51 PM:

David Harmon @7: Possibly, although I think it was more a simple "we want to leave now, not stay and serve people like we're paid to do" issue (hiding behind the liability issues, which, as I indicated, we'd arranged for). And boy, did they chose the wrong people to argue microbiology with!* Hiding the tea and coffee cups & supplies was simply nasty. It meant that I ended up going to make coffee and bring it to my mother (who saw nothing wrong with asking me to go and do this, on my wedding day, still in my wedding dress), followed of course by various guests indicating they'd like some as well, so some close family members and friends ended up spending the next hour or so scurrying around making tea/coffee and washing mugs up for re-use.

*It's not that we don't acknowledge the theoretical risks, it that we are more aware of the actual size of the risks, safety margins etc.

#14 ::: Xopher HalfTongue ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 06:31 PM:

My general way of testing food safety is "eat it and see if I die." So far I haven't, and I only do this with food when I'm pretty sure the risks are overstated. Cheese that's been out for hours? Hello, cheese was invented as a way of preserving milk! Hard (or hardish) cheese doesn't have enough water activity to sustain dangerous bacterial growth.

Maybe I've just toughened myself up by doing this for years, but I really think my mother's horror of *gasp* warm mayonnaise was silly.

When I'm making food for other people, I'm a LOT more careful.

#15 ::: Rick York ::: (view all by) ::: January 31, 2012, 07:49 PM:

First, I think Rikibeth was right. Food server training, which many states require for anyone who handles food, is very strict on leaving food at room temperature. I had the training here in Oregon as a volunteer. People have lost their jobs by not obeying rules like this. Caterers can lose their licenses.

And, as a side issue, folks; is it really necessary to imply bad motives if people do something that displeases you? I have no idea if the caterers at DCB's wedding were being honest or not. But, must one assume they were lying about their motives? And, isn't it possible that they put cups and saucers away because their bosses told them to? (In spite of clients wishes to the contrary).

We have become so cynical in so many ways, both big and small, that we cannot take anything people say at face value. This a very sad thing.

#16 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 03:21 AM:

Rick York @15: I understand and accept all the stuff about food server training. The food was on the proper warmers to keep it at the correct temperature. As I said, we had specifically arranged with the caterers to have the food out for longer than usual, because we knew some people would be arriving later, and we didn't there to not be food for everyone (my husband's one stipulation about the wedding: nobody should go hungry). No, their bosses had not told them to put the cups away - as I said, we had arranged for (and paid for) everything to be left out. If the caterers had said that wasn't possible, when we booked them, we would have found other caterers/another way of doing things.

They didn't "do something that displeases you", they refused to do the job they had been contracted for - and tried to hide that behind rules and regulations.

The experience was sufficiently bad that I told my stepmother afterwards that, if I ever had a large party, I wasn't going to have it catered, I was going to hire a couple of chest freezers, do all the cooking gradually over several weeks, then hire/borrow a couple extra microwaves so I could heat everything on the day. She reassured me that the attitude of this particular set of staff was not typical.

#17 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 03:26 AM:

Returning to the other aspect of the original picture, simply "30% less packaging" or "30% less packaging than before" would have made more sense.

But then, given that people don't seem capable of realising that "90% fat free!" means "10% fat" rather than "there is some fat in the other 10%" ...

Then there's the discount clothing store's claim: "Everything always up to 60% less". Yeah, like that really means anything.

#18 ::: Paula Liebrerman ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 03:39 AM:

#10 E
Feeding animals antibiotics as food additives getting them to "market weight" faster is one of the main causes of all the anitobiotic resistance around, AND the evolution of all those lethal strains of e. coli that keep spreading from factory farm/fctory meatpacking palnts into the food supply.... and the salmonella outbreak from giant factory egg farms is from the filthy factory farm conditions of a particular egg producer with a long-time bad reputation... And there's a highly palce person in the FDA who's a Monsanto tool on a swinging door between the FDA and Monsanto, who goes after small frmers but NOT that damned slimeball mass egg producer...

#19 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 11:13 AM:

The Freschetta pizzas I see in my freezer case still come in 1-inch square boxes...

Those are some small damn pizzas there.

The thing that used to bring a smile to my face with all the frozen lunches I heated was the text down in the corner:

(Not without you give me a wooden stick to eat it on, pal!)

#20 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 11:14 AM:

What was wrong with my italics there? Viz:

The Freschetta pizzas I see in my freezer case still come in 1-inch square boxes...

Yeah, this time it leaves them in.

#21 ::: Theophylact ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 11:26 AM:

As Harold McGee points out somewhere, commercial mayonnaise has a pH of about 4 (fairly acidic) and has been pasteurized. It's more likely to protect your potato- or chicken salad from bacterial spoilage than to cause it to spoil.

#22 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 11:46 AM:

Kip W @ 19... The Freschetta pizzas

Isn't Freschetta the artist famous for his portrayal of Conan the Barbarian?
("That's Frazetta, Serge.")

#23 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 12:44 PM:

In the UK, at the height of the salmonella-in-eggs scare (back while I was at veterinary school), we were told that there was still a much greater infection rate in meat chickens than in egg-producing chickens.

Linkmeister @2: Yes, I liked the mental image of teeny tiny pizza boxes.

- Lovely juxtaposition! I also love it when it says something like "Keep frozen. Heat before eating" - Well, make up your mind, which? *Sigh* What's wrong with the more accurate "Store frozen. Heat before eating."

#24 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 01:54 PM:

dcb, #17: Actually, that "everything up to 60% less" does mean something -- it's telling you how much more you'd have paid for these items in a department store. The tag will tell you the specific department-store price, as well as the discounted price. Discount clothing stores are like Big Lots/Odd Lots -- they get the leftovers that didn't sell even on clearance in the department stores.

#25 ::: -dsr- ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 03:11 PM:

There's a good reason for food-service folks to be much stricter about food safety than you in your kitchen: volume.

If the rate of salmonella infection in eggs is one in 10,000, then you in your kitchen might handle a hundred or so eggs in a month -- and an opportunity for problems arises once every hundred months or so, every eight years.

A commercial kitchen might deal with 5,000 eggs a month, easily -- and run into the same opportunity every two months.

#26 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 03:41 PM:

Lee @ 24: This is very tangential. But here, evidently, the stuff that didn't sell on clearance at Target gets donated to the Goodwill across the street, which usually marks it up slightly from the clearance price. I understand that I'm essentially making a charitable donation by shopping at Goodwill, but that still boggles me just a little bit.

dcb @ 23: I personally enjoy "Do not consume pizza without cooking." I know they mean you can't just thaw it and eat it, but I always have a vision of someone gnawing on a whole frozen-solid pizza. (Which, to be fair, I am certain a college student has tried at some point.)

#27 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 06:22 PM:

All right, all right. The really scary thing about those 1-inch square pizzas? They were priced the same as the 12-inch ones!

#28 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 06:32 PM:

Lee @24: I disagree. "Up to 60% less" could mean anything from 0% reduction onwards - so it's meaningless. If you look at the original and sale prices on the individal tags then yes, that means something. But the main, blaring, signs. Nada. It doesn't even show the maximum discount, because then they have "Final Reductions!"

Linkmeister @ 27: !!! :-)

#29 ::: Rob Thornton ::: (view all by) ::: February 01, 2012, 11:59 PM:

dcb @ 17

If I was writing that, I think it would be safe to leave "than before" implied. Especially since when you are writing for commercial packaging, I would imagine that every word counts.

IMHO, the weirdness in "This package contains 30% less packaging" is lies mainly in poor word choice not in lack of accuracy.

The use of "package"/"packaging" has a redundant feel that smacks of bureaucratic love of repetition and passive tense. That's why I suggested using "material" instead of packaging. Using that word would make the sentence shorter and easier to parse (though perhaps a bit too Canadian/European-sounding for us Mericans).

And yes I am a technical writer. :)


#30 ::: Peter Erwin ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 06:15 AM:

Rob Thornton @ 8 & 29:
How about "This package contains 30% less material?"

The problem is that could be misinterpreted as implying "this package contains 30% less stuff inside". (Obviously not something that you'd expect people to advertise loudly, but you also don't want your advertising to be risibly misinterpreted, either.)

I think the real problem is "contains", which when applied to packages, boxes, etc., more often refers to the, well, contents, rather than to the packaging itself. That's maybe also part of the problem with the existing text ("Wait -- the package contains packaging? Like, instead of food?").

So maybe: "This package is made with 30% less material" ?
Or: "Packaging made with 30% less material"
Or even: "Packaging contains 30% less material" (Even fewer characters! The copy writing budget is saved!)

#31 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 07:47 AM:

'Packaging contains 30% less material' raises the question 'than what?' (Less material than the food in the packaging, maybe?)

#32 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 08:14 AM:

"Are you packing?"
"Well, I do have this snub-nosed .38 right here."

#33 ::: Marty In Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 10:45 AM:

I've always been annoyed by the labels that trumpet simple math as if it were an actual bargain:

"30% MORE!! than 24-ounce size"

#34 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 12:43 PM:

Way back when Mad Magazine was still satire, they had a pictorial of packaging with banners reading: Old! Unimproved! 20% Less! The Same as Brand X!

#35 ::: Serge Broom ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 01:16 PM:

"Think greater!"

Too bad the Skiffy Channel doesn't tell us which kind of greater is to be thought up.

#36 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 02:15 PM:

Serge @ 35:

They're just trying to remind us of how cheesy their programming is.

#37 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: February 02, 2012, 08:21 PM:

50% LESS FAT!*

* Than a tub of lard.

#38 ::: Marty In Boise ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2012, 10:22 AM:

Serge Broom @38: So if you'd recently switched from a .45, your label would say "Contains 16% less packing"?

#39 ::: dcb ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2012, 03:16 PM:

Marty In Boise @ 38: I'm really glad I wasn't in the middle of swallowing a mouthful of beer when I read that!

#40 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2012, 05:34 PM:

I actually think "Now with 30% less packaging" would be sufficient. The "this package contains" is pretty well implied by the presence of the writing on the package (what else would it be talking about?). The "now with" is an idiomatic way of implying "than before", but with a positive emphasis on the present rather than a negative emphasis on the past.

Actually, "This package contains..." sounds like someone who was used to writing texts intended for regulatory compliance has now been assigned to write marketing text, and hasn't yet gotten the hang of this new assignment.

#41 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: February 03, 2012, 08:04 PM:

Allan Beatty @37: Cheerios used to claim "may lower cholesterol" ... which I'd mentally amend "if you eat a bowl of Cheerios instead of a bowl of lard".

#43 ::: Elliott Mason ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 07:16 PM:

Rob Rusick @41: That claim came from some research showing that if you have x servings of whole-grain oats every day, it can correlate with lowering your cholesterol.

#44 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 07:36 PM:

Bruce Cohen #42: They keep insisting that lard is pork fat... When I was growing up, I'm pretty sure it was beef fat... on the other hand, Mom wouldn't have let either into the house anyway. (It was a pretty Jewish neighborhood.)

#45 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 07:46 PM:

Back when the fake fat Olestra came out, I thought it should have been called NutraLard.

#46 ::: Thomas ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 08:10 PM:

#41, #43:
Not just correlate, there are randomized experiments with oat fibre (don't know about Cheerios specifically).

It isn't only a total dietary intake issue, though that must be part of it. There is an effect on reuptake of cholesterol excreted in the bile. This recycling mechanism is also how Benecol and similar cholesterol-lowering spreads are supposed to work. Vytorin, too, for that matter.

#47 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: February 05, 2012, 09:01 PM:

I think any dietary fiber will do it. Doesn't have to be oats. Prunes are high-fiber, I hear....

#48 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: February 07, 2012, 10:11 PM:

And the political version, if it were honest, would be "50% less fecal material than a tub of santorum."

#49 ::: Henry Troup ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 09:19 PM:

#44 - David

Beef fat is suet (see spotted dick recipe); pork fat is lard, much softer. Neither is permitted in strict kosher households, as you observed. The best beef suet is the fat around the kidneys, it's specifically part of the sacrifice. Lev 3:3-5:

From the fellowship offering you are to bring a food offering to the LORD: the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, 4 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys. 5 Then Aaron’s sons are to burn it on the altar on top of the burnt offering that is lying on the burning wood; it is a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.

#50 ::: Bruce H. ::: (view all by) ::: February 19, 2012, 10:53 PM:

#50 - Henry

Raw beef fat is suet. Rendered beef fat is tallow. (At least that's how it's reported in the WSJ commodities price reports.)

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