2007.01.07 There's something fishy about these Pringles

Written by David Green.

By RICH FOLEY

It’s probably a good idea to read product labels, even if you learn more than you want to know. Last week, I purchased a bottled beverage purported to be “Strawberry Lemonade.” I can’t say I was too impressed with the taste, and a glance at the ingredients explained why.

There wasn’t a bit of either strawberry or lemon listed, just tasty things like brominated soybean oil and the ever-popular glycerol ester of wood rosin. Anyone want a refill?

A bigger surprise was the “Citrus Smoothie” shampoo I recently bought. Not my normal choice, but it was free with a coupon. It actually smelled really good, and once again the ingredients revealed the reason.

Not only did it contain lemon oil and orange oil, but also grapefruit and peach extract, milk protein and honey extract. That actually sounds pretty appetizing, don’t you think? 

But then there were the Pringles. I purchased a couple of cans of a new flavor called “Cheesy Onion Dip,” figuring it had to be a winner. I like cheese, I like onions, I even like dip, what could go wrong? Reading the back of the can, that’s what.

Like many products these days, Pringles has information on the label to aid those with allergies, but I wasn’t expecting to read “CONTAINS WHEAT, MILK AND FISH (TILAPIA AND NILE PERCH).” Excuse me, fish?

The ingredients include cheddar cheese and onion powder, which weren’t at all surprising, but then there’s “fish gelatin.” Doesn’t that sound tasty? If you’re making dessert, I wonder what kind of fruit goes best with fish flavor gelatin?

I have to admit, the Pringles are pretty good, even after reading the ingredients. A friend I offered some to referred to them as “fish and chips” after I revealed the secret component. Procter & Gamble might have success selling them in England, except they would point out that they’re not potato chips, but rather potato “crisps.” Or make that Potato Crisps with Tilapia and Nile Perch.

I’ve heard of tilapia, but never of Nile perch, and what are they doing in a cheese and onion-flavored potato “crisp,” anyway? It was time to call Procter & Gamble. Luckily, the Cincinnati-based consumer products giant has a toll-free phone number devoted solely to Pringles.

The nice lady I was connected to put me on hold while she searched her computer for an answer. When she returned, she asked if I was sure I had a can of Pringles as she couldn’t find the flavor in her data base. After some more searching, she found the flavor, but her ingredient list seemed strangely devoid of seafood. An answer to my question wasn’t forthcoming, at least not that day.

She recorded all the various code numbers from my can and promised to contact me after she got an answer from the “Pringles team.” And just who are they? Does Proctor & Gamble sponsor a squad of food researchers specializing in potato crisps? The Cincinnati Pringles? It sounds like a football team.

Five days have passed at this writing, and I’m still waiting for an answer to my inquiry. I even agreed to their request to “share my e-mail address with Proctor & Gamble,” but no e-mail, no phone call and certainly no snail mail. Maybe they sent an answer with a Nile perch. More likely, they just added my name to their “ignore this crackpot” list

Because of the fish experience, I’ve now gotten very careful about what food products I buy. I almost purchased a bottle of carrot juice until I noticed it was made somewhere named “Moldova.” If I can’t locate a product’s place of origin on a map, I’m not buying it. I later learned it’s the country formerly called Moldavia. I’m still not buying it.

I also passed on the Jeff Foxworthy jerky. I didn’t even have the courage to check the ingredients on this one. Where the “teriyaki flavor” comes from is a secret for someone far more adventurous than me. I wonder if now you might be a redneck if you buy jerky endorsed by a comedian.

I am, however, thinking about taking one last risk when it comes to food. For my next little project, I’m mulling over the idea of calling Unilever’s toll-free number and asking if it’s safe to drink citrus smoothie shampoo.

 

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    HOLDEN HUTCHISON gives a hug to a black bear cub—the product of a taxidermist’s skills—at the Michigan DNR’s Great Youth Jamboree. The event on Sunday marked the fourth year of the Jamboree. Additional photos are on page 12.

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