It's not that I'm a purist. Quite the contrary: I like Italian heroes and chocolate peanut butter ice cream and hot dogs. In none of those goodies is there any pretext of "back to nature." To be clear, it's not that I seek out foods with ammonium sulfate (stabilizing the yeast to make a better sandwich) or xanthan gum (an emulsifier that keeps my sundae creamy). Given the option, perhaps I might pass on those and other additives. It's just that I've made it this far, so the chances of getting hit by a bus are at last as high as succumbing to an overdose of potassium nitrate. Still, to be safe, I'll just keep driving myself to Nathan's.
That said, I do appreciate that the FDA is ever vigilant on my behalf. In that mission, they are constantly checking on the makers of foodstuffs, assuring that the ingredients they are using will do me no harm, or at least only one in 10 million parts of harm. Which is why they went after the Nashoba Brook Bakery.
NBB is an artisanal bakery in West Concord MA that started in 1998. They call themselves a "slow rise" bakery, eschewing artificial ingredients and creating their goods by hand. They produce 6000 loaves a day including your standard sourdough, rye and whole wheat, as well as specialty products such as Pugliese and Pepper Jack Bread. They distribute to restaurants and caterers in eastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, as well as serving and selling sandwiches, soups and whole loaves in their own on-site café.
The bakery recently received a notice about their facilities from the FDA which warned about products that had been "prepared, packed, or held under insanitary conditions whereby they may have become contaminated with filth, or whereby they may have been rendered injurious to heath". The note detailed a variety of conditions wherein the FDA inspector listed conditions which were not up to standards for the handling and preparation of food for human consumption. Good. That's what we want: government watchdogs watching and then dogging when appropriate.
Included in that warning letter was also a section on "Misbranded Foods." In that list of transgressions was a flag that their whole wheat bread also had some corn meal in it, as well as other items which didn't have the proper nutrition labeling. Again, all well and good. There are regulations for all this, and there's no reason not to follow them: every other manufacture has to as well.
But then there's this: "Your Nashoba Granola label lists ingredient 'Love.' Ingredients required to be declared on the label or labeling of food must be listed by their common or usual name. 'Love' is not a common or usual name of an ingredient, and is considered to be intervening material because it is not part of the common or usual name of the ingredient." To be clear: if they wanted to, they could include sodium stearoyl lactylate or azodicarbonamide or calcium propionate in their bread, all of which are approved by the FDA, as long as they are listed on the label. But making their product with "love" is illegal, whether listed or not. By law they could make it with "heart," though regulations require manufacturers to state the origin of a product, so adding "human" might cause its own set of problems.
It's good that NBB got called on the carpet for unsanitary conditions. It's not so good that they can't make their product anymore with love. CEO John Gates told the Associated Press that "The idea that we have to take the word 'love' off of the ingredient list for our granola feels a little silly." Still, a law is a law. Just be happy the FDA doesn't regulate kids. With little girls, sugar might be fine, but what spice are we talking about? And as for little boys? I shudder to think about what's in puppy dog tails.
Marc Wollin of Bedford eats most things without looking at the labels.
His column appears regularly in The Record-Review, The Scarsdale Inquirer and online at http://www.glancingaskance.blogspot.com/, as well as via Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.