Wednesday, October 04, 2000

What's for lunch?

So tainted corn has been found in prepackaged lunchbox-sized Taco Bell tacos. The corn, bioengineered to contain its own insecticide and approved only for animal feed, is not supposed to come anywhere near human comestibles. Yet the government has now confirmed that the stuff has indeed turned up in those taco shells.

Is it a plot by the corn’s manufacturer to bypass FDA approval? Is it an example of the sort of lazy regard for consumer’s health that urban legends accuse Taco Bell restaurants of regularly? Or is it, as I suspect, just a plot to make moms who send prepackaged luncheon packets to school with their kids feel guilty about it. Well, too bad: We moms are a lot hardier than insects.

I mean, it’s not as if a little insecticide is the worst thing kids are going to eat in those Lunchable-like assemblages. Has the FDA ever taken a look at that liquidy nacho cheese? If there’s any cheese in there, I’ll eat a bioengineered taco shell. Exactly what chemicals do they use, and which toxic waste sites do they get them from? Then there’s the super-processed meat products, which can withstand lack of refrigeration and all manner of lunchroom abuse. What’s a little insecticide with all of that? Keeps the flies away from the food.

That said, we’ve been going the Mom-made sandwich route this year. Every night, I make them up and lovingly slip them into zip-lock bags: One hamburger roll, lots of margarine, two slices from a brick of cheddar cheese. Every night I make them, every morning the kids toss them in their lunchboxes (along with carrots, applesauce, cookies, and juice boxes), and every afternoon the lunchboxes come back empty. Whether this means they’ve eaten the food, traded it, tossed it, or thrown it at classmates, who knows. But I’ve done my duty.

Last year, we went with the school hot lunch, which still costs less than a bioengineered-taco kit. But toward the end of the year, my son’s aide mentioned that he was playing with the food more than he was eating it, that he was eating with his hands instead of his fork, and that the other kids were talking. So we started sending finger foods in instead. This made his teacher upset, because she felt he should learn to eat with a fork. But all kids who bring in their lunches bring in finger foods. You don’t see kids toting filet mignon in a paper sack. So why should he not have a sandwich like anybody else? He has plenty of opportunity to gross people out with his lack of fork skills at home.

So far, they both seem happy with their same-every-day lunchbox lunches. No pleas for tacos, insecticide-fortified or no. My daughter did ask to up her cookie count from two to three, and I complied. My son did ask to change from boxy 100% juice boxes to sleek silver pouches of 100% who-knows-what, and I denied; never mind all the sugar in those things, anything that makes it easier to squirt juice product on your neighbor is not going in his backpack. And they’ve both requested more creative sorts of applesauce, but really: What do they put in that Blue’s Clues applesauce to make it so glow-in-the-dark blue? Has the FDA looked into it? Does it at least kill bugs?

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