Have you ever wondered what happens inside your lunchbox after you shut the lid? I know I have lost endless hours of sleep and sanity thinking about this very thing and more importantly as a mother thinking about how I may be affecting my kids by what I pack in their lunchbox.
OK, given the ages of my kids I don’t really pack their lunch boxes anymore, but I did for years and found it an eternal struggle. Struggle in the sense of keeping the lunchbox interesting so that its contents actually ended up in the kids’ stomachs rather than as a science experiment two weeks after it was first packed. We parents have all witnessed that experiment at one time or another and have acknowledged how creative Mother Nature really is by coordinating so many pretty colours of mould. And like me, I am sure you were often in fact packing lunches for other people’s kids because lunchtime was just a big swap meet. To ensure your kid maintained playground status it was important to always pack swap worthy, interesting items. Your kids may not have appreciated the nutritious, smelly salami sandwiches that you lovingly packed every day, but little Johnny whose parents were vegetarians certainly enjoyed your daily efforts.
I’m glad those days and the lunchbox pressure is now over.
Roll the film forward to lunch time today and I was lucky enough to have been offered a muesli bar by a friend. It hit the spot right in the middle of four hours of uni classes. As I was breaking open the packaging about to savour the delicious flavours of strawberry, yoghurt and oats, I noticed that the labelling on the packaging proclaimed this muesli bar to be LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY.
Since when did muesli bars become aggressive and mean? Mind you, I have had my suspicions. Every time I used to put a muesli bar into my son’s lunch box the apple core would come back bruised and the mandarin beaten to a pulp. Coincidence? I think not.
If I was putting together a lunch box today for my sons I would have to consider not only the nutritional and freshness retention value of the food together with the ever changing palettes of my offspring, but also whether the food played nice with other food when the lid came down. And if not for the food label how would I ever know if a particular food was friendly and compatible? I mean trying to catch unfriendly food in the act is a bit like trying to peek inside the fridge door without making the light come on.
Needless to say the expression LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY came with a little ^ after it, meaning there was more to this friendship story. After chasing the little thingy around the bottom of the packet and squinting so hard that I almost burst a blood vessel, I found this explanation:
We care about you and your family and are committed to helping Australian families make easier choices for the lunchbox. That’s why we now make all of our muesli bars with a no added nut recipe* ensuring the range is now lunchbox friendly.
*This product has been made on equipment that does not use or handle peanut or tree nuts. Whilst we have taken these nuts out of our recipes we cannot guarantee that the other ingredients in this product have not come into contact with tree nuts or peanuts.
So having chased a ^ and * around the packet, I found that this friendly muesli bar didn’t hang out with nuts, but some of its ingredients could have. It certainly is a sign of our times that 40 or so words have to be used on packaging to avoid potential litigation or bad press around nut allergies.
I sympathise with any parent who has a child with a food allergy. I am not sure though whether introducing the label of LUNCHBOX FRIENDLY is the clearest way to warn consumers. That expression can mean a host of things to a host of people, if it means anything at all. My first reaction was that lunchbox friendly meant less fat, less sugar.
My second reaction was lunch boxes must have gotten a whole lot tougher than when I was a kid. My third reaction was to check the pantry for other nonsense labels.
The message seems to have gotten lost in the attempt at clever marketing. How many people would pause long enough to chase the symbols around the packet? It seems preferable to simply state NOT MADE WITH NUTS given the caveat about other ingredients possibly having socialised with nuts.
Why use 4 words when you can use 40?
Have you ever come across nonsensical labelling of foods? Do you read the food labels on packets?