Food label-arious

Published 9:34 pm Thursday, March 4, 2010

As per my doctor’s orders, I am being asked to be more conscious of the things I consume. In other words, I should read the labels, get to know what’s in the things I eat and avoid those items that are ruining my health.

Even though I’ve been asked to make these observations by my doctor in the past, I’ve tried to at least look at the information on the labels of the foods we eat with a more comedic eye. And what I found is that while the ingredients in most of my favorite foods are nothing short of toxic to a diabetic like myself, the labels describing them can be hilarious.

It’s not really the ingredients, though, or even the fact that most things I eat have enough salt in them to disable a less-experienced masticator. No, the fun I find is in the preparation directions. Some of them are necessary but others are placed on the package simply by law or for the joy of some happy-go-lucky writer at Kellogg’s or Stouffers.

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My absolute favorite set of instructions is written on the single serving package of Pop-Tarts. First of all, there are instructions for both toaster and microwave preparation because it’s quite obvious that Pop-Tarts are a gourmet item and need proper attention to bring out their natural bouquet and flavor. Even more intriguing, the microwave oven instructions have not one, or two, but three parts:

1. Place pastry on a microwave safe plate.

2. Microwave on high setting for 3 seconds.

3. Cool briefly before handling.

I could not make these up if I wanted to. So let’s analyze the three steps. You obviously need a microwave-safe plate for the blistering 3 seconds of microwaving you’ll be doing. Plus, you have to allow the now-scorching hot Tarts to cool, though I really believe they would get hotter just sitting in my pocket.

Of course, the best part about the instructions is that usually I would already have devoured the two would-be toasted treats before even getting them to the microwave — or even to Step 3 of the instructions.

So, I don’t know if I’m a slow reader, a fast eater, or if those instructions serve no other purpose but to provide me with a chuckle while sweeping the frosted crumbs from my shirt.

What I’ve learned is this: Reading food labels is depressing, disgusting, and yet somehow incredibly funny — kind of like the time when my oldest brother came down with chickenpox and decided to scratch several of his most personal of itches with my hairbrush and then tell me about it while I was grooming my hair one morning.

Next time my doctor asks if I’m reading my food labels, I know how I’ll respond. “I loved the Pop-Tarts label. Do you know of any other food labels as funny as that one?”

TROY Cooper is a page designer at Suffolk News-Herald. He can be reached at