Food In The News

An actual Safeway chicken sandwich.
Since I tend to get accused of being an unctuous curmudgeon I thought I’d start this story on a happy note. The state of New jersey sentenced a stray puppy to to death in a gas chamber. What? Not happy enough for you? Oh okay, how about this? The puppy lived. In only the 3rd occurrence since they instituted the gas chamber for strays 12 years ago the little scamp emerged from the happy death camp wagging his tail and coughing slightly. He has been sent to a no kill shelter and is up for adoption. Everyone involved is, of course, wanting to name him Lucky and talking about divine intervention. The sad part is that some of the people who want to “adopt” Lucky (or whatever he ends up being named) tend to be freaks who want to take the dog home and kill it themselves. Thus, due to background checks, it may be a while before the pooch gets a home. Even so, living in a shelter with free food and medical care beats the alternative so I guess that’s some good news.

See? I can do “happy.”

Since we’re in the Northeast, let’s cruise a bit further up the road and visit the lovely state of Vermont where they aren’t asking for the gas chamber, yet, but they do want to make people who sell fake maple syrup pay some stiff fines. Or go to jail. Or, well, be treated like criminals.

A Vermont couple thought they were getting a sweet deal on real Vermont maple syrup when they found a good price for it on the Internet.

The man who was selling it told them he was a trucker from Rhode Island who passed through Vermont and that he would meet them in Brattleboro to give them their syrup, said Henry Marckres, a maple specialist with the Vermont Agency of Agriculture.

Turns out the syrup they bought in 2009 wasn’t real at all, officials say. Tests show it was pure cane sugar.

It didn’t take long for the couple from Vermont – the largest producer of maple syrup in the country_ to discern a phony.

The taste wasn’t quite right, Marckres said. It looked like syrup, but was too light in color to be labeled as Grade B syrup, which is dark, said Marckres.

“It was sweet, but it had no maple flavor at all,” he said.

To protect the purity of Vermont’s signature crop and to dissuade others from passing off fake maple syrup for the real thing – which sells for about $50 a gallon – Vermont’s two U.S. senators have co-sponsored a bill that would make it a felony to sell fake maple syrup as the real thing. It would also increase the penalties in existing law from one year to five years in prison.

“Vermonters take pride in the natural products our state produces,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. He says the growing number of individuals and businesses selling fake maple syrup alarms him.

“This is fraud, plain and simple, and it undermines a key part of Vermont’s economy,” he added.

Co-sponsoring the bill – the Maple Agriculture Protection and Law Enforcement (MAPLE) Act with Leahy are Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, and New York Sens. Chuck Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand.

Bernard Coleman of West Warwick, R.I., was indicted last month on charges that he brought adulterated maple syrup into interstate commerce, which carries a one-year penalty. A federal public defender did not return a phone call seeking comment.

Other foods like coffee, catfish and certain onions have their own special protections. At least six states have labeling requirements for the sale of catfish, according to a report from National Agricultural Law Center.

Rule #1: If the deal sounds too good to be true, it is.

Rule #2: Anyone selling fake food should be forced to ingest their entire supply.

Seriously, I hate fake food. Whether it’s genetically modified foods, I have actually seen a tomato bounce, or wildly mislabeled stuff that is solely designed to bilk the public, anyone selling stuff that could poison us just so they can make a buck should be ….. wait a minute, that gas chamber thing isn’t sounding so bad after all.

Closer to home a Chicago man made me wonder how easy it must be to get a job as a hotel event coordinator. Seriously, this guy has a job and there’s millions out of work?

A Chicago man was charged over the weekend for assaulting one man and stabbing another after breaking into two apartments in search of beer.

Hotel event coordinator Tim Snyder, 36, broke into an apartment building around 4 a.m. Saturday, according to the Sun-Times.

Snyder allegedly entered one apartment and headed straight for the fridge.

When he didn’t find any beer, he allegedly punched a man and left, breaking into another unit. In the second apartment, prosecutors said, he struggled with another man, who he allegedly stabbed in the back with a corkscrew.

Residents of the building then subdued Snyder until police arrived.

The victim was taken to an area hospital, where he received 22 stitches.

While in police custody, Snyder allegedly threatened and spit at officers. He now faces two charges of home invasion, aggravated battery and aggravated battery of a police officer.

He has previous convictions for domestic battery and aggravated battery, police said.

After his arrest, Snyder told a police officer, “I’m gonna kill your ass. You can’t lock me up forever,” according to the police report.

He then said, “Want some AIDS?” and spat at the police officer, the report said, according to the newspaper.

Look, I get it, he wanted a beer. That’s why they have grocery stores. As to the rest of his behavior, that’s why they have Chlorpromazine.

Our last food related story comes to use from the lovely state of California where, they too, must have so many jobs and so few people to staff them that they are forced to hire idiots.

Nicole Leszczynski couldn’t imagine that two chicken salad sandwiches would land her and her husband in jail and her 2-year-old daughter in state custody. But it happened five days ago, when the 30-weeks-pregnant woman forgot to pay for her snack while shopping.

Leszczynski, 28, and her husband Marcin, 33, were handcuffed, searched then released on $50 bail each. Their ordeal at the police station lasted a few hours, but their daughter Zofia spent the night away from her parents in a case that has sparked nationwide outrage and forced the Safeway supermarket chain to review the incident.

“It was the most ridiculous chain of events that happened,” she said while sobbing Monday. “It’s still hard to believe what happened.”

The family had moved to an apartment near downtown Honolulu from California two weeks ago. Still settling in, they ventured out Wednesday to stock up on groceries, took the bus, got lost, and ended up at a Safeway supermarket.

Famished, the former Air Force staff sergeant picked up the two sandwiches that together cost $5. She openly munched on
one while they shopped, saving the wrapper to be scanned at the register later.

But they forgot to pay for the sandwiches as they checked out with about $50 worth of groceries.

“When the security guard questioned us, I was really embarrassed, I was horrified,” she said. They were led upstairs, where the couple expected to get a lecture, pay for the sandwiches, and be allowed on their way.

But store managers wouldn’t allow them to pay for the sandwiches, she said.

“I asked to talk to a manager and he said it was against their policy to pay for items that left the store,” she said. “The security guard said we were being charged with shoplifting.”

Four hours later, a police officer arrived and read them their rights. A woman from the state Child Welfare Services arrived to take Zofia away.

The pregnant mother said she tried to keep her composure until Zofia, who turns 3 in December, left the store. “I didn’t want Zofia to be scared because she’s never spent a night away from us. She didn’t have her stuffed animal. She didn’t have her toothbrush.”

But as soon as her daughter left, “I got completely hysterical. I went to the bathroom and I threw up,” she recalled.

A police spokeswoman said it was procedure to call Child Welfare Services if a child is present when both parents are arrested. The store’s management did not know the girl would be taken away, Houghton said.

The national supermarket chain said it was looking into the incident.

“It was never our intent to separate a mother from her child. That was a very unfortunate consequence to this situation,” said Susan Houghton, a spokeswoman for the California-based supermarket chain. “We understand the outrage. We are concerned about how this was handled.”

Leszczynski called the incident “so horrifying, it seemed to escalate and no one could say, ‘this is too much.'”

The couple was handcuffed and driven separately to police headquarters a few blocks away, where they were searched, had their mug shots taken and then released after paying bail. A police officer escorted them back to the store — which banned them for a year, Leszczynski said — where they picked up their groceries and walked home just before midnight.

“We basically stared at each other all night. We woke up at the crack of dawn and called (the state child welfare office),” Leszczynski said. While they waited, Leszczynski vented about the experience on babycenter.com and contacted a lawyer for help with being reunited with Zofia. At the lawyer’s suggestion, they took their story to the media.

Zofia was returned after an 18-hour separation from her parents.

The couple has a court date in November for the petty misdemeanor arrest. They haven’t decided whether they will pursue legal action.

Houghton said the company will review the police report and store security footage before deciding whether to press charges.

A couple of years ago I was at the Dominick’s on Fullerton near Ashland. I too was freaking hungry and ordered a nice sammer which I chowed on as I did my shopping. My grocery bill came to a couple hundred bucks but, and this is entirely my fault, I forgot to pay for the sandwich. I, like the lady above, had stuffed the wrapper in my pocket and forgot about it. Here’s where our stories differ. When the security guard stopped me, and after I figured out what had happened, I asked if I could just pay for the sandwich and he said … proof that he paid attention in school …. yes. So I went back in, paid the $4 or $5 and went home.

It’s not that hard people.

Now, if the brilliant Mr. Houghton actually goes through with his plan on pressing charges I hope Safeway becomes the home for millions of protesters … all eating sandwiches they got somewhere else.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-QMNQup360&w=480&h=360]

Listen to Bill McCormick on WBIG AM 1280, every Thursday morning around 9:10!

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