steorra: Part of Saturn in the shade of its rings (Default)
[personal profile] steorra2011-04-17 08:04 pm

Missing allergy warning

(Cross-posted from [community profile] allergies and, with some variations, from my own journal, by the encouragement of [personal profile] literally.)

I have a potentially-fatal allergy to peanuts and walnuts.

I just went shopping. As I sometimes do, I looked through the section of fancy chocolate bars, trying to find something that didn't have traces of peanuts or walnuts. I ended up finding two that were labelled as safe for me and looked like things I might enjoy, and bought them both.

One of them was dark chocolate with mint. I checked the packaging carefully before buying it. The list of ingredients didn't include nuts, and there was no 'may contain traces' type warning that I could spot anywhere else around the back of the package. I probably checked several times; I usually do with chocolate, because it seems too good to be true when I find some I can actually have.

After I got home and unloaded all the groceries, I figured I'd have a bit of one of my new chocolate bars. I had decided on this mint one. I checked the back again, because it still seemed too good to be true. The back of the package has lists of ingredients in quite a few languages; English at the top, followed by Spanish, French, Greek, something Slavic in Latin letters, Swedish, and something that might be Portuguese, though it didn't contain any of the really obvious indicators of Portuguese.

One of these caught my eye, and I noticed that it had a 'may contain traces' warning. In fact, all the languages besides English do, warning against possible traces of milk and something else. I suspected the 'something else' might be nuts, but I wasn't sure. The French and Spanish were respectively 'fruits secs' and 'frutos secos', which literally means 'dry fruits', but I seemed to recall that that might mean nuts. I checked the German, which said 'trockenfruchten' (dry fruits), but given the lack of capitalization in the German, I figured it was likely a poor translation. The chocolate was produced by a Spanish company, so I figured I'd take the Spanish version as probably authoritative. I plugged 'frutos secos' into Google Translate, and sure enough, it came out as 'nuts'.


That is a labelling failure that clearly someone ought to be made aware of. There should probably be a product recall. And I should probably attempt to inform the relevant people. I'd really rather not bother, but it should be done, so I guess I will try to do something about it...

The chocolate in question is "Dark Chocolate 70% Cocoa With Mint", produced by Valor Chocolates.
[personal profile] literally2011-02-07 02:03 pm

To those who don't understand the concept of marketing and business strategies

 Or, why it's good to have more gluten-free products available for everyone.

 I'm not vegetarian, much less vegan. But there are are some cosmetics out there that are naturally vegetarian or vegan, because the owner of the company either has that lifestyle or wants to appeal to at least try to broaden their market. Now I never heard of anyone  asking, hey this liptstick is vegan and you're not, why are you buying it and/or how this isn't socially responsible. But I do see this kind of bullshit about the existence gluten-free items. I can't even begin to get in to how hypocritical this this mindset is, especially when it comes to food allergies and intolerances. One does not, after all, choose to have something such as Celiac, but one can choose to be vegan. Where are the complaints of people about the plethora of vegan products on the market, which are much more abundant than gluten free? I have yet to see any. But some people do some extra things in order to appeal to the vegan/vegetarian part of the market in order to expand market share, but I don't see anyone complaining about that even though there is a lack of evidence that we evolved to live on such a diet.

 Anyway, when many people in the supermarket or drugstore or cosmetics counter or just shopping online purchasing stuff, they are often, just like people with vegetarian friends or family, not just purchasing products for themselves, but for other people. A parent isn't only buying bread for themselves, and if they have a kid with Celiac, gluten-free bread or bread mix may be bought instead of the loaf of usual bread. Same with potato chips, and you have no idea how I love the fact that Kettle Chips are now gluten-free. There is nothing quacky about a company having a product that is naturally gluten-free in the first place taking extra precautions to avoid cross contamination and advertising their product is, but this is to some people. But things like this do help broaden the market, not just for individual buyers.

 And the reason you don't just want people on gluten-free or other specialized diets buying your product is because the market only for specific people isn't going to make you much money. Sure, it's wrong to promote the stuff as a cure all for everything, but most gluten-free products aren't-though I have seen a lot of interesting claims about soy as a miracle food escape without notice in far too much of the skeptic community. Anyway. You have to have broader appeal, because market research is so important, because you want a good business plan, because you want that business loan, because you want to actually do a lot more than break even. 

 Most people who buy vegetarian or vegan products aren't even vegetarian, hell I still used to still buy things like soy and gluten-based burger substitutes for years after I stopped being vegetarian. But I never seen any complaints about people allegedly being ripped off by vegetarian products. Vegetarian products appeal to a larger market than just vegetarians, coconut oil with absolutely no contact with gluten or animal particles expands the market appeal. This isn't about hype, but business and market reality. Those complaining about the plethora of gluten-free products out there are ignorant hypocrites.

Pre-ETA: I can't help but be reminded of the time in which I saw an inane thread in Marion Nestle's Food Politics site in which a commenter didn't understand why gluten-free pet food is on the market now. As though cats and dogs evolved to eat that in the first place, and as though no one with problems with gluten would ever have a problem with touching it.
[personal profile] literally2011-01-19 04:40 pm

Vegetarianism and false equivalency

 First let me be clear, not warning your guests that there is beef broth in the vegetable soup if you know they're vegetarian is a dick move. However, I am incredibly bothered by this trend in the blogosphere in which people who choose to avoid animal products lump their issues with those with Celiac, allergies, and food intolerances. It's a false equivalency because vegetarianism is about lifestyle choice, not whether the animal protein will kill them. Yes, there are people out there with allergies and intolerances to some kinds of animal products, but you have to remember this, those health problems aren't a choice either.

 Thus it sickens me that anyone would imply that somehow I as a person who gets sick by even touching a gluten product is somehow having the same problems as vegetarians are having. Hell no. It's an inappropriate (to put it mildly) appropriation of real medical problems, and if anything, plays down the real medical problems that can occur if someone with something like an allergy comes in to contact with the wrong proteins. I believe it's dangerous, because the last thing people like us need are more people lumping allergies, food intolerances, and Celiac with lifestyle choices, I have heard too many horror stories of kids with severe nut allergies dying because their condition wasn't taken seriously by others (including relatives), so I can't help but feel a certain chill when yet another vegetarian acts like they're in the same boat as we are, because they sure hell are not.

Pre-ETA: Just in case anyone wonder, I was vegetarian for years before I quit. 
[personal profile] literally2011-01-08 11:45 am

A rant about baking substitutes

  So I looked at the reviews for Elana Amsterdam's Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook on, and I can't help but assume that most of them are payed for sockpuppets, because from what I know about baking, only most of the negatives can be right. And I don't mean the complaints about higher than usually priced ingredients, that comes with the gluten-free baking territory, so you either buy them or don't, or at least, you know of some good companies online or off that sell them in bulk.

  No, it's the complaints about oily results, and this is what you get when you use an oil in place of a solid fat regardless of what you are baking, and using a liquid sweetener, especially for cookies, really doesn't help either. It's basic baking chemistry, using ingredients that are liquid at room temperature will not give the results solid fats and granulated and/or dry sweeteners can, thus I question how much knowledge she has about wheat based baking in the first place, and believe me, at least having some grounding in that tradition helps you out even if you don't eat those products, because knowledge of baking chemistry is so important for better results. At the very least, buy a copy of Professional Baking (it doesn't even have to be the latest edition),and read it, it discuss the basic but very important things in there-even though it might not be perfectly edited.

On a side note about the agave nectar, I am surprised by the lack of complaints about how sweet the end results are, because I have had it in coffee before. Too easy to make a drink too sugary, especially if its flavored, not something I'd ever want to bother again, much less bake with. Especially drop cookies-and not I'm saying drop cooking because there are some varieties of cookies of out there that can do well with using liquid sweeteners and fats, just not ones like chocolate chip. Does Amsterdand understand these differences between varieties? I really doubt it. (In fact I was floored by one of the cake recipes, how one put a cup and 1/2 in there without hurting someone's teeth?).

 I plan on eventually writing a more long winded piece about baking and substitutions someday, either here or in a different blog, but to keep things short in simple for now-

 Solid items need solid substitutes. If you can't use butter, use something like coconut oil, Spectrum Organics palm oil (it's the only mass sold ethically harvested one I know of), lard, and other animal fats.

 Powdery items like sugar-for the love of God, please avoid substituting it for liquid unless you know what you are doing. I have yet to try out palm and coconut sugar, but they certainly look like better options than agava and honey. If you want a honey (or other kind of cake traditionally made with liquid sugars) cake, please look for other honey cake recipes beforehand.