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Truth in packaging

Food For Thought

I think the people who design the packaging and labels for products are becoming as sneaky as the telephone solicitors we have to deal with these days. If you buy a bottle of grape juice that says “100% juice” you expect it to be pure juice, right? Then, when you read the fine print, you see the first ingredient listed is water. The second ingredient is grape juice concentrate. Well, okay, so the water is to reconstitute the juice concentrate. Good enough– but you have to have a certain amount of faith they added the exact amount of water that was originally taken out of the juice to make the concentrate. Somehow, when I compare the flavor of the juice to the flavor of actual grapes, there’s quite a difference. Does the flavor really suffer that much in the process of being turned into juice?
Suddenly, my usual brand of toilet paper disappears from the shelves. The apparent replacement is a newly-designed package claiming each roll consists of 154 2-ply sheets. The old one, with seemingly identical rolls, said each roll had 165 2-ply sheets. It’s a different package and even the brand name is different, so there’s no way I can assume it’s the same product, but still, I’ve lost 11 sheets per roll, approximately two uses, and there’s no other comparable product available.
The squeeze bottle of ketchup is a lot easier to get started than the old glass bottle, but the ketchup seems not quite as thick as it used to be. We notice it soaks into the hamburger bun easier and makes it wet. That never used to happen. We like the convenience of having mustard in a squeeze bottle too, but it’s really difficult getting the last 10 percent of the mustard out of the bottle. We try taking the lid off and going after it with a knife, but there’s still quite a bit of it we can’t get to. I suppose it could be watered down like the ketchup, but maybe there’s a better design for the squeeze bottles that would solve both problems. Don’t get me wrong, there are some changes I really appreciate, for instance light-weight plastic bottles and jars instead of heavy glass ones.
The resealable zip-lock bags for cheeses and lunch meats are convenient for storing, after you’ve managed to get the package open. The instruction to “tear here” or “pull apart here” are often beyond human abilities unless armed with two pairs of pliers or a good sharp pair of scissors. And there’s been no improvement in years for that package of bacon claiming to have an easy to open tab. Yes, there’s a pull tab on the pasteboard box that pulls away with the greatest of ease. But once you get rid of the box, you are left with a block of bacon sealed in heavy, air-tight plastic that defies anything short of a hacksaw to get it open. Related to that is the package of little frozen pork sausages featuring a perforated top panel that appears easy to tear open. I suppose the little half-circle tab at the end might easily push in and provide a place to grip it—if the box were empty. But it so happens, when the box is filled with frozen sausages, there is no space to punch the tab in and one has to nearly demolish the box in order to get at the sausages.
I have mixed feelings about those clear plastic boxes in use for so many of the things we buy—from berries to bakery goods. They are clean and light-weight, we can see the contents from all angles, they are often aggravatingly difficult to open, and when empty, take up a lot of room in the wastebasket unless you take the time to cut them up. Some of them might have future lives as containers for other things, but possibilities are limited and I doubt that uses could be found for very many.
Probably my least favorite packaging items are those nasty little paper diapers placed under some cuts of meat to absorb juices. I find them especially unpleasant when they are glued to the foam trays so I can’t easily pull them out and get rid of them once I get them home. They hold the juices and become rancid long before the meat would begin to be over the hill. So, any meat I don’t plan to use right away must be re-wrapped. If I could pull that paper pad out, I could leave the meat in its tray to store it, saving me both time and plastic wrap.
Think about that little plastic zipper on cigarette and chewing gum packages. Such a simple idea, and it works great—has for at least 75 years. They’ve even started putting a similar one on some reams of copy paper. Maybe it would be an improvement over some of the more “modern” devices that don’t quite work as well as the inventors hoped. I know they’d be better than the nothing that is presently on some of those big packages of paper towels and other paper products.