Thursday, August 28, 2008

I can no longer eat Hershey's chocolates

File this in the "Well CRAP!" file...

Those who know me know that I love chocolate. Love with a capital L-O-V-E. Now I tend to love the fancy stuff or at least the pseudo fancy stuff. In the less than $5 a bar category, I usually look for Cadbury's or even better Milka (by Nestle from Germany in a purple wrapper with a cow on the front).

Occasionally I'd slum it with a Hershey bar or more often a Mr. Goodbar since I'm a sucker for chocolate and peanuts.

Well, tonight I found out the hard way that Hershey's has reformulated their product. What should have tipped me off was the "Half Pound" size chocolate bars had apparently be downsized from 8oz to 7oz... and then again to 6.8oz. (7oz and 6.8oz versions were sitting on the shelf together so it made it kind of obvious.)

According to sources on the internet, Hershey's reformulated their product in Fall 2007 to include lactose, milk fat, and the food additive PGPR (which is substituted for real cocoa butter to save money and reduce the fat content).

Here's the problem... I'm pretty severely lactose intolerant. Hershey's did not put any sort of warning on their product or announce the change in any way. The only way to know would be to have read the ingredients panel. And really, who reads the ingredients panel every time they buy the same thing they've always bought?!

This probably explains one particular tummy blow out that I had around Christmas that I wasn't able to explain. I had just chalked it up to my IBS but looking back it was most like Hershey's chocolate induced.

Yesterday I learned of this formulation change after having consumed ~1/2 of a 7oz bar of chocolate... within minutes, I was in full on cramps and running for the bathroom.

Now I've been lactose intolerant long enough to know exactly when I'm experiencing a full on lactose issue. It is unlike anything else. If you're not lactose this won't make sense to you but fellow intoleranters know what I'm talking about. The cramps are unmistakeable. So immediately after the first sit down episode I ran for my lactase powder. It tastes aweful but works much faster than the pills. (Sort of the same premise as those BC headache powders.)

After my stomach calmed back down I headed for the product label. There in the ingredient list was the culprit... LACTOSE. Dammit. I had to give up M&M's for the very same reason! And now they have taken Hershey's from me too!

Why do companies include an ingredient in their product that is known to give some people problems? Simple, lactose is cheaper than regular sugar. It also aids in the sweet milky aftertaste so they can get away with using less real milk and milk solids in the product.

Futher insulting my palatte I found that Hershey's had added milk fat in place of cocoa fat content AND added PGPR to replace even more cocoa butter. So in the name of saving a few cents Hershey's has adulterated their products with fake ingredients.

How ironic that Hershey's just launched the "Pure Hershey's" campaign this month. It's pure alright... a pure lie. Their chocolate is no longer chocolate, cocoa butter and milk. Now its chemical fillers, fake vanilla, cheap sugar and fake fat. On top of all that and the product downsizing, they just announced an across the board price increase.

It's so depressing I think I need some... non-Hershey's chocolate.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Starting over again at 64

Consumer's Union (the folks who publish Consumer's Reports) are almost finished with their tour across America in which they have interviewed and logged stories from all classes and socioeconomic classes regarding healthcare insurance... or more appropriately, the lack of affordable coverage.

The article below is a reprint from their blog of their North Carolina stop. Woefully, if my father didn't have good coverage from Lowes, this very same scenario would play out with my parents. Still, he is, at 50, essentially working for healthcare. What will Medicare look like for him in 15 years? What will it look like for my mom (now 55) in 10 years? How did we let insurance and more specifically, healthcare coverage, get this way in America? The picture was so rosey 20 years ago. Who was alseep at the wheel? And how do we get back on the road?

I encourage you to check out the Cover America Tour. Your children, parents and even yourself are likely to be affected by this issue at some point.

Starting over again at 64

We waved goodbye to Dave and Betty and climbed back into the RV, our arms full of goodie bags packed with fruit, snacks and Betty’s sour cream chocolate bundt cake for the road. They had raised three boys (now grown) and Betty, like many southern moms, had never felt right sending them out the door without some of her home cooking for the road. Now she insisted we do the same – and who were we to argue.

It looked like a nice life they had carved out here in Asheboro, NC. A cozy home on a quiet street with lots of greenery, Champ the dog and Jaybo the goat roam the back yard together; the grandkids had been here this morning. The perfect set up for a couple of retirees – if only retirement were an option.

After 42 years with the same company Dave’s position was eliminated, forcing him into what he thought would be an early retirement. Not long after, the company decided to stop subsidizing retiree health benefits, and the $1000 a month premium suddenly became their burden.

If they both were about to turn 65 and qualify for Medicare, that would have been okay for a short time. Or if they’d found a reasonably-priced individual plan, that would have worked too. But the cheapest plan they could have bought on their own would have been $3000 a month, and, while Dave is 64 now, Betty is still four years away from Medicare.

So Dave went back to work full-time for the healthcare benefits. He got a good job with the county, and now every day, 8 to 5, Dave works so he and Betty have an affordable health care plan.

He’ll keep working until they both qualify for Medicare, and by then he’ll be 69. It’s certainly not the future they envisioned. Says Dave, “So much for the retirement plans that we had made!"

By the time we left it was after 7:00. We drove off through the rolling Carolina foothills, dotted with tiny churches and a perfect sunset – and we were frustrated. Dave and Betty had struck a nerve. They were our dads and moms – people who worked hard for decades for their families and deserved a break when they were ready to take one, not being forced back into the workplace until almost the age of 70 by the high costs of health care.