Monday, February 2, 2009

Betty Crocker Bac-Os: No Animals Harmed

The winner of this week’s Why Does This Product Exist Award is Betty Crocker Bac-Os.

There are two reasons why these bacon-flavored chips won. First, the label pronounces that Bac-Os have no saturated fat and no cholesterol. I thought this a little strange, since animal meat has both. But then it became clear. On the back label it is written that the product “contains no meat or animal fat.”


Bac-Os are actually a highly-processed amalgamation of mostly soybeans (in several guises), salt and red 40. No doubt the FDA approves.


The second reason is a little more personal: I overdosed on Bac-Os when I was eight. I’m not joking. I consumed almost a whole bottle (afterschool boredom?) and felt like I was going to die. And—over thirty years later—I still have such a vivid recollection of how I felt in the aftermath of my binge that the thought of it still causes discomfort.

Instead of calling Betty Crocker, I called my mother.

“Ma, what were you thinking when you bought that stuff?”


“I don’t know,” she said. “I thought it would add a little flavor to salads. And it was easy, because I was working full-time.”


Yes, even my mother was on the dark side at one point. Thankfully, she stopped buying processed foodstuffs, mostly because she listened to Carlton Fredericks, the host of a radio program about nutrition and health.


“He used to talk about bad fats, bad colorings and lots of salt put into certain foods,” my mom said. “So I stopped buying them.”


Instead, my mom would cook for several hours on Sundays. It’s easier than you think to fry some nitrite- and nitrate-free bacon, crumble it and store it in a plastic container.

Yes, cooking takes some time, but you and your family will be healthier for it.

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