Stop Being Helpful!


Today I was in the drug store and picked up a sack of Pringles Select potato chips. These are fancy new chips that Pringles is marketing. I read the ingredients for two varieties, first Sundried Tomato and then Teriyaki Barbeque. Both of them had ingredient lists that looked fine until the very end, "Natural Flavors (includes milk products)".

Most products, particularly highly processed snack foods, contain the catch-all "natural flavors." Pringles, however, has decided to start helpfully informing the reader when "natural flavors" includes milk products. In theory, this is very nice and convenient for me. In theory, whenever I see "natural flavors" on an ingredients list I should call up the company's customer service line and ask whether that includes whey, casseine, or any other milk or animal products. In practice, though, I tend to fudge on this. If it says natural flavors I generally just go ahead and eat it, since I can plausibly deny the presence of animal products. So in practice this means that I would have just eaten the Pringles chips if they hadn't told me that their natural flavors included milk products and I would have been very happy. Now, though, knowing that they do contain milk products, I can't eat them.

It is nice, though, that Pringles has started being mindful of those whose dietary restrictions preclude consumption of dairy products. At the same time, it would have been nicer if, rather than helpfully informing everyone that their chips contain less than 1% Natural Flavors, of which a small portion are milk products, they would have just stopped putting the sprinkling of whey/skim milk powder/whatever the hell in.

I haven't looked at the ingredients for standard Barbeque Pringles yet, but I'm a little scared that they may have started pointing out the milk products in them, as well. In the mean time, I settled for a bag of barbeque Lays, which may or may not contain milk, but which at least don't say that they do on the package.


You and I follow similar procedures in this regard. At this point I figure that I've read so much about animal ingredients in the past five years that if something doesn't set off warning bells in my head just from reading its name, odds are it's safe. I skip past unknowable things like unspecified sugar and general artificial flavors, mostly on the logic that I have to be able to buy some convenient pre-made food if I'm not going to die of either starvation or cooking exhaustion.

Here's an interesting thing. When I went vegan, I did so gradually. For months I still ate dairy when nondairy options didn't immediately present themselves. I pared down animal products until I got to the level of discrimination at which I now reside, and have remained there without altering my diet significantly for several years. When my sister went vegan a couple of years after me, she went immediately for the greatest degree of discrimination and precision possible. She instantly cut out every recognizable animal item, and called companies constantly about the unrecognizable ones. She even called Wildwood to ask where the bacteria cultures for its yogurt come from and if any animals were involved in the process.

I may have mentioned that now, when my sister and I go to L.A. for family visits, she shrugs and eats potato salad and buttery oatmeal cookies. Meanwhile, I'm hanging around the olives and arguing with my small cousins about whether I'm supposed to leave the bananas for dessert. If nothing else it bolsters my argument that there is (on a personal basis if not an absolute one) a sustainable level of vegan adherence in an overwhelmingly omnivore world, and that setting oneself a goal too much higher than that will lead to failing, to some degree, to adhere to it.

Why the hell do you let me ramble on so tangentially? My original point was merely that I am also of extremely mixed feelings when I'm forced to acknowledge the hidden 1% of animal ingredients in a food I'd previously considered acceptably vegan. Thank you for the information; no thank you for destroying my plausible deniability; next time save the cost of reprinting the labels and just take the stuff out instead.

Er. The thanks at the end of that comment are directed rhetorically to the companies in question, rather than to you. If you told me about such an unnoticed ingredient I'd at least keep the grumbling sotto voce.

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This page contains a single entry by Zach published on January 9, 2007 7:10 PM.

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