Of Gluten, Bacon, And Reverse Deceit

gluten free baconThere is no valid scientific evidence that gluten–the protein in wheat, barley and rye—is harmful in any way unless you suffer from Celiac Disease, which few people do, or have an allergy to it, which isn’t common either. Somehow the food and nutrition scammers, aided by aging hippies, vegans and none-too-bright celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow have convinced a depressing number of people that gluten is generally deadly, and this has created a boffo market for food marked “gluten free” and sold at unethically high prices, since they are supported by gullibility and little else.

Yesterday, I noticed that Boar’s Head pre-cooked microwave bacon is prominently labelled “gluten-free.” Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty certain that bacon, like my shoes, the pavement on the street where I live, my cell phone and my laptop, is always gluten-free. I checked my assumption on a gluten website, which confirmed it, but the site also said that you never know when bacon might be cross-contaminated by the nasty stuff, just traces of course, but you never know!!!! 

Apparently you do know if the company says the bacon is gluten-free, although I don’t know why. Nor do I know how you would prove you got sick from the trace gluten on your bacon, nor understand why the bacon doesn’t come with denials of contamination by anything else that might bother some people—-arsenic, peanuts, shellfish, penicillin, lactose, cat hair, broken glass, ISIS. Continue reading

Whole Foods Thinks Its Customers Are Idiots…And They Are Right!

asparagus-waterThis sounds like a fake Saturday Night Live commercial. What it is, however, is an example of how affluent shoppers who are gulled into paying premium prices for upscale marketing ploys eventually forfeit the respect of the retailers who serve them, and end up fleeced like the metaphorical sheep they are.

The Whole Foods in Brentwood, California is offering bottles labeled “Asparagus Water” for  $5.99 each. The bottles appear to be filled with water and three stalks of raw asparagus.

A call to the supermarket by the food site Eater at first produced a denial that the product existed. Eventually the inquirer reached someone in the produce department who  explained that the product was new. When asked how “asparagus water” is made, he explained that “It’s water, and we sort of cut asparagus stalks down so they’re shorter, and put them into the container…it’s to drink.” He then elaborated, “The nutrients from the asparagus do transfer into the water.” Continue reading

Missouri’s Unethical Food Stamps Bill

Sometimes you just need a good lobster. I'm from Boston. Trust me on this.

Sometimes you just need a good lobster. I’m from Boston. Trust me on this.

Years ago, my wise and wonderful first year Contracts professor at Georgetown Law Center, the late Richard Alan Gordon, made a permanent impact on my conscience with a spontaneous rant. He was discussing a case involving a welfare recipient who had been sued by a Washington department store for failing to keep up with installment payments on a Hi-Fi system. The court voided the contract, saying that it was unconscionable for the store to intentionally create incentives for poor people to spend public assistance money on “non-essentials” like music systems. (I wish I remembered the name of the case, but then I only got a C+ in the course.)

As the students nodded their heads in agreement with the opinion, Professor Gordon cut them short and thundered (I am copying from faded old notes: Dick’s rants were always eloquent and memorable, and I began reconstructing them after class for posterity):

“Outrageous! Who are you, or a court, or a government, or any authority to tell another human being that feeding his body is more important than feeding his soul? Music is “non-essential”? I suppose that means that literature, culture, inspiration, wisdom, knowledge…or a moment of joy, the thrill of discovery, experiencing a concert, admiring a great work of art, or sharing an intimate and timeless moment with the love of your life is “non-essential” too! Neither the law nor any court nor a government authority has a right to dictate what is essential to any human being, whether he is receiving public assistance or not. Being poor imposes its own cruel restrictions on liberty and autonomy. Imposing more still is both an abuse of power and a violation of basic human rights. This is an assault on human dignity.”

Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Ice Cream Sundae Dilemma


It just took me more than 10 hours of assorted travel hell to reach this Colorado resort where I’m giving a keynote speech at the Utah Bar’s annual convention. I arrived in my room close to midnight, and I was parched and annoyed. I decided to indulge myself by ordering a nice, cool treat from the late night menu—a vanilla fudge sundae, with roasted pecans, whipped cream, and a cherry on top.

The young and earnest resort employee arrived 20 minutes after my call, and I signed for the dessert. It wasn’t until I had several spoonsful that I noticed something was missing: no pecans.

Your Ethics Quiz:

Should I have called up room service and demanded the promised nuts? Continue reading

Holiday Ethics Quiz: The Family Stuffing Dilemma

Families can fight about anything.

Further proof that families can fight about anything.

In the category of the kind of ethics controversy only families can devise comes this one, from an old friend from high school, who just e-mailed me for advice:

She is having her sister and her sister’s family, all adults, over for Christmas dinner. She is cooking all of it, turkey, stuffing, chestnuts roasting on a open fire, Andy Williams on a spit—the works. Today her sister tells her that her daughter will be bringing her own turkey stuffing, because she likes her recipe best. My friend said, “Fine,” and hung up. Now she is quietly fuming. She asks, “What kind of behavior is that? I’m inviting them to dinner. Who brings their own private courses because it’s their personal preference?” (She adds that nobody has ever complained about her stuffing. I can personally vouch for that: I’ve eaten it in past years, and it’s excellent.)

My friend thinks the whole idea is an insult and bad manners, and wants to call up her sister to say, oh, lots of possible things, like “You know Christmas Eve when we’re coming over to your house for dinner? Well, my daughter will be bringing hamburgers, because she thinks the food you serve is crap,” or, Tell Phyllis she’s welcome to make her own stuffing and get her ass over here at 6 AM to stuff it in our bird, or she can live with what I’m serving,” or “Why don’t you all just bring your favorite damn dishes and we can just have pot luck?”

So it’s a two-part Christmas Ethics Quiz for the Ethics Alarms faithful:

1. Is the daughter’s conduct inexcusably rude?

2. Should my friend say anything about it? Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Conundrum of the Crushed Crab

“OH THE HUMANITY! I mean…well, you know what I mean…”

A good friend related this scene on Facebook, and asks if she is losing her mind:

She was shopping at the open air fish market on Maine Avenue in Washington, D.C. when a vendor, whose cart was full of live blue crabs, had an escape attempt. One of the crustaceans made a dash for freedom, only to be squashed by the wheel of the cart.  “I screamed and then burst into tears,” she wrote. “It was awful. I tried to save the little guy.”  Then she realized that people were laughing at the drama, thinking it was a comedy….laughing at the crab getting crushed and at my friend for being upset by it.

She wrote: “Now I know he was destined for a pot of boiling water. But somehow – seeing that little creature getting run over was just too much for me. I know someone was going to eat that crab – but do we have to be cruel?”

Your Post-Mothers Day Ethics Quiz for crab mothers everywhere:

Were the laughers cruel, or merely recognizing a funny scene when they saw one? Continue reading

Stupid Ethics Tricks: Buns, Mascots, Mottos and Maher

Advertising Ethics: KFC is marketing its new “Double Down” chicken sandwich by paying college co-eds—who must  meet some secret standard of butt-comeliness—to wear sweat pants with “Double-Down” printed on the seats. The National Organization of Women objects: “It’s so obnoxious to once again be using women’s bodies to sell fundamentally unhealthy products,” says Terry O’Neill, NOW’s president. What an odd comment: is it all right in NOW’s view to use women’s body to sell healthy products? Is O’Neill saying that (not to give KFC any ideas) paying buxom co-eds to wear tight T-shirts advertizing fried chicken breasts would be wrong, but the same campaign for healthy, broiled breasts would be just fine?

I am tempted to say that any ethical condemnation of the “buns as billboards” method is attributable to the “Ick Factor,” not ethics. Continue reading

Barbeque Ethics

In a provocatively titled post called “Screw Ethics, Good Barbeque is More Important”, the Dallas Observer food blog “City of Ate” made an interesting case.

“Yesterday’s Blues, Bandits & BBQ competition in Oak Cliff was a success on every score but flavor,” the post reads.
“Organizers estimate more than 1,000 people turned out to celebrate tunes and barbecue at the grassroots festival, which may have been the first in the nation to require its pit teams to use sustainable, grass-fed meats.” And the results were not good. The blog reported that noted judge and BBQ expert Daniel Vaughn tweeted afterwards:

“After dozens of samples of BBQ made from sustainably raised, grass-fed beef and pork, I must make the broad generalization that it sucks.” Continue reading