Snack food blurbs show the society we’ve become


Every so often I stumble across a story that demonstrates just where we are as a society.

Now… stumble isn’t a perfectly accurate word. Occasionally I do stumble across one or two. A link provided by a friend or spending some time looking in depth around a news site can deliver an article or two I might not have seen otherwise. But often it’s a bit more. Often it’s right there, out in the open, and that’s where the issue begins.

We live in a technological world of likes and shares and clicks and speed. Get as many people engaged as possible, even if only for a brief period of time. Get them interested, while understanding that for many people that interest is fleeting. Get the clicks, earn the dollars, accuracy shoved to the side to be dealt with later. All of this creates tricky waters to navigate.

Recently I saw an article about a child that needed to have surgery as a result of eating a snack food. Now… understand… since you can look up the details on your own, I’m not going to name the product. It wasn’t actually potato chips, but I’m going to call them “spicy chips” so we have a reference point. I think if you do a bit of research, you’ll find I’m not that far off in using that category for us.

The article I saw was actually one of many. I mean, the story was all over the place. It was on the web sites of local news media, and it was on the web sites of national newspapers. If you wanted to investigate it, you could find international links and sources and stories and companion pieces.

The strange thing that every one of the initial links had in common was a heading or blurb that went something like this: “Teenager has surgery after eating spicy chips” and “Spicy chips sends child to emergency room.” (My wording.) Some combination that to my mind clearly suggested a person was brought to the emergency room because of the spicy chips. Kind of an immediate cause and effect. Things got a bit confusing if you read a reputable article on the story.

See, the blurbs I saw almost all in some way implied there was a concerning danger presented by spicy chips. They presented certain things in the introductions as facts. A teenager ate some and ended up in the operating room. Clean out the cupboards and hide the children! The reality? Well…

Turned out a mother blamed the spicy chips when her daughter needed to have her gallbladder removed. And, maybe you see a few other elements coming…

  • Most doctors cited in detailed articles about the event say that it is far more likely the girl’s diet overall contributed to the problem and not the chips alone.
  • Some medical professionals noted, when asked about this incident, that they have seen a rise in young children with gallbladder problems that don’t eat chips but do have a diet high in fatty and fried foods.
  • One article said the mother noted her daughter ate four extra large bags of the spicy chips each week, and this habit had been going on for some time.

Ok, let’s take a breath for a moment, pause, and bring a few things together.

Even if those of us with kids have been fortunate to avoid the picky-eater syndrome, we are all quite aware of the chicken-finger-kids-gang. You know, those children that will only eat chicken fingers or macaroni and cheese or some specific food and nothing else.

And we’re also aware of the trendy impulses and cravings that can overtake any of us. Sometimes it’s seasonal… winter arrives and we binge on hot chocolate, while in summer months we’re looking for soft serve ice cream and clam rolls.

The point being, if your kid wants hot dogs and only hot dogs and will not eat anything but hot dogs, there are moments when you’ll just feed them the darn hot dogs. If they are willing to eat some apple slices or an ear of corn on the cob with each meal, you’ll serve up the hot dogs over and over, even if that means hot dogs for lunch and dinner seven days a week. You know it doesn’t make sense overall, and you may ask your pediatrician about it during routine visits, but the kid is willing to take a vitamin each day and is eating some fruits and vegetables. It goes in the win category.

Next up, the frequency and exposure to those spicy chips. The first day I saw some links to the story, I never—and I do mean NEVER—saw anything indicating something beyond some type of immediate and isolated reaction. All the article titles and blurbs offered up that a young girl basically touched a spicy chip and wound up in an operating room. Only days later, or by finding a detailed article, did it come out that the girl had a sustained habit of eating up to four large bags each week of spicy chips, and usually one specific brand/style.

Some of you might very well drink a 2-liter bottle of soda each day (or more). You may even start the day off with a glass of soda. Some of you might eat four gallons of ice cream a week… might eat the classic idea of fast food for lunch every day of the week… eat half of a cake after dinner every night… and so on. The majority will not defend the action as a well-balanced, healthy choice.

The trick here is, there is a huge difference between moderation and excess.

In the end, the strange part of this story for me… the main thing I took from it… isn’t the story itself, but rather how some places make attempts to get my attention.

I don’t necessarily believe in fake news. That’s another story, for another day. Instead, I generally believe that what is being pitched as fake news is a combination of self-serving-interests colliding with a naïve and hungry audience. As a summary: (1) Some places produce content based not specifically on facts, but rather the interests of contributors to their revenue streams. (2) Audiences want to find justification and support, not opposition and contrast, and toward that end believe what they want to believe and find outlets that support those beliefs. (3) A result of perception being the reality, not what is actually happening being the reality.

Society, to a large degree, seems to be distancing itself from awareness. In many ways, this is nothing new. A bit of ignorance has always been a part of our lives. But when that crosses over into the area where accusations are made, responsibilities and accountability are avoided, and people act rashly and quickly based on puzzle pieces rather than the full picture… well… that becomes a bit more dangerous.

I’m not going to tell you spicy chips in excess is a wise approach to nutrition. I’m also going to hope you already knew that.


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