Tag Archive: consumer issues

The real reason kids’ pajamas are ridiculously tight

Every parent learns that you have to buy kids’ cotton pajamas two sizes too big. We’re not supposed to, according to the yellow hang tags from an unidentified authority, but that is how it’s done in reality.

Otherwise, kids look and feel like they’re wearing too-tight body stockings, and no one wants to sleep that way. (What if you get an itch? You’d then need to completely undress, sliding off that clingy cotton peel just to scratch your thigh.)

If the pajamas you buy in your kid’s size fit more reasonably, it’s because they are made of synthetic fibers (which may or may not have been chemically treated long before the fabric became pajamas) or have been made thoroughly coated in flame retardants that must make it through at least 50 washes in all their chemical goodness.

How did these pajama rules come about? And how many kids in loose cotton jammies were truly in danger before these regulations first came into effect in the 1970s? (And couldn’t that risk have a lot to do with the vastly greater numbers of parents who had cigarettes dangling from their lips in 1975?)

The tight fit is considered protective because no loose fabric means less of a chance that a sleeve or pant leg will be set ablaze.

And the rule change in the 1970s did result in a significant reduction in fire injuries to children. That was back when the manufacturers were using a few flame retardants that were so obviously hazardous to health that they were swiftly banned in 1977.

Today, I can safely say I seldom hold my children over an open flame. Particularly not when they are wearing pajamas. But then again, mine hardly ever wear pajamas anymore since they’re are so darned uncomfortable. The synthetic fibers are too heavy, and the cotton versions are too clingy. I like fire safety, but I also like having kids who will fall asleep at night.

But these fire-safe jammie laws mean nothing if everyone buys a bigger size or ditches the clothes for loose T-shirts and shorts. It’s common sense to avoid clothes that smell like chemicals. It’s common sense to buy clothes that fit. And it’s common sense to keep the kids away from things that make fire.

Until recently I was under the impression that these laws existed to protect kids who woke up in burning homes, but I was wrong. In 2000, a memo from the Consumer Product Safety Commission stated that children should only wear cotton pajamas when they are snug because loose garments catch fire fast. The press release notes, “Children are most at risk from burn injuries that result from playing with fire (matches, lighters, candles, burners on stoves) just before bedtime and just after rising in the morning.”

It sounds to me that rather than changing the clothes, fire prevention experts need to work on looking into households where kids routinely play with fire before bedtime. Limiting access to matches and lighters and teaching kids not to turn on the stove might be, say, a whole lot more effective. Guards that prevent young children from being able to turn on the stove would be a good move, too.

And maybe the parents could just make sure they occasionally look in on the kids. (Sadly, I know, that’s sometimes too much to ask.) I’d have to say that tight cotton pajamas and chemical-coated polyester blends certainly do seem to be a Band-Aid here.

They aren’t really doing the job, either, if most people avoid buying the products. It’s a little like banning brown wooly coats so children don’t get shot by hunters. It’s the free-ranging gun that’s the problem! Just like it’s the free-ranging fire sources that prompted these rules.

Let’s start a movement instead to get the lighters and matches away from kids, and outfit every home with a stove guard.

Do you break the fire safety regulations, too, or do you follow every last rule to the letter? Let’s discuss that in the comments.

Frozen yogurt: This just got real

Nothing sets off my inner copy editor like a cheerful, brightly colored sign full of advertising nonsense.

And grammatical errors. (Oh, how I love to find those grammatical errors.)

“We use REAL ingredients because it’s better for you.”

(First off, is Menchie’s trying to tell us that its ingredients are better for us? In that case, the subject it was looking for is “they.” The ingredients are a “they,” not an “it.” Of course, this presumes that Menchie’s was not simply using an unclear antecedent in the signs that were posted at stores this fall.)

And I am glad to hear that the ingredients are real, and thus do in fact exist. I do hate when I buy food that is a figment of my imagination.

The company clearly wants to tell us that it uses “real ingredients.” Real ingredients as opposed to fake ingredients, I suppose. One could assume that if the ingredients are fake, that they do not in fact exist. Saying that an ingredient is “real” doesn’t give us a whole lot of evidence about what kind of ingredient it is. Just merely that it’s in there, and that it has, um, matter.

Most people will be excited by that and assume that this unregulated and meaningless term “REAL” means that the ingredients are “pure ” (another term meaning nothing), or from organic milk, or more healthful than other kinds of frozen yogurt.

You see, Menchie’s never actually does make that claim, in a legal sense. But the company’s chest-pounding about realness sure does make you feel like you must be doing something healthy as you eat your candy-covered frozen dessert.

But any ingredient that is present in any concoction, anywhere, is “real.”

Even, if it’s, say, artificial flavors. Yup, they are in there. Up near the top of the list for the flavor cinnayumm bun. “Natural & artificial flavors” are on there, right next to modified food starch — perhaps another favorite of the crowd looking for real, healthful ingredients?

These are listed before the third last ingredient, which is … artificial flavor. Apparently, Menchie’s stuff is so real they had to put in artificial flavors twice, in two separate listings.

But I have to give the chain a break, because the company wasn’t making a claim that really goes against any laws. Menchie’s was simply stretching the boundaries of language, and praising the virtues of a product that does, in fact, exist.

Unless, that is, the company wants to make us believe that frozen yogurt flavors full of artificial flavors and covered in commercially produced candy are in fact, from nature (you know, REAL ingredients).

Now that might be misleading.

After all, Menchie’s only said it uses real ingredients. Not that all of its ingredients are real.

Did you read that sign wrong?

Comments welcome.

——————————————–

Cinnayumm bun ingredients:

https://www.menchies.com/frozen-yogurt-flavors/nutrition/195 

Here are ingredients for the flavor pineapple cake, which bears an impressive badge telling us it contains “real pineapple cake batter.” The ingredients also list the very real “natural & artificial flavors” and later, “natural & artificial flavor,” as well as Yellow Lake 6 and Yellow Lake 5. All real. (On another day, I will discuss how natural flavor is no guarantee of anything close to nature, either.)

https://www.menchies.com/frozen-yogurt-flavors/nutrition/231

The flavor harvest pumpkin boasts natural & artificial flavors, as well as the very real food colorings Yellow 5, Red 40 and Yellow 6:

https://www.menchies.com/frozen-yogurt-flavors/nutrition/213

Trick-or-cheaters: It’s chocolate, now with less chocolate!

Halloween is a time when we let go of long-held standards such as “no candy bars for breakfast” and “no slasher-movie imagery for 18-month-olds.”

And most parents look the other way when another parent steals all of a child’s Almond Joys and pilfers a Twix or two.

But you might want to think twice before sharing in your kids’ take, or letting the kids eat it, because this stuff isn’t entirely made of food anymore.

Some major chocolate brands have taken out the cocoa butter and replaced it with … well, the derivative of a product that sometimes serves as a laxative (like those times Mussolini used it as a way to torture, embarrass and occasionally kill prisoners) or an outright poison, like when it’s used to make ricin, Walter White’s poison of choice on “Breaking Bad.”

Do you want food that comes in close proximity to it? It is made from the very useful castor bean plant, which is widely considered one of the most dangerous plants in the world, and also makes really nifty biodiesel and lubricates machines and engines well. This exciting ingredient is called PGPR, Polyglycerol Polyricinoleate. (See? It even has ricin in the name.)

The FDA knows about it, and deems it all OK. PGPR didn’t kill any rats or give them cancer in the 1950s and 1960s. (And we know how advanced detection of rat cancer must have been in the 1950s and 1960s.) It also helps manufacturers use more soy lecithin. If we eat more of this filler, candy companies can have a better bottom line, and we’ll get less … cocoa butter. I love when companies remove a major component of an item and sell it to me with less of it. Don’t you?

That’s OK, right? You may enjoy eating a viscous, yellow product you would never even touch as a raw ingredient so the company can alter the candy’s thickness for less. And then they can leave out those pesky ingredients that occur naturally in chocolate production, like cocoa butter, that are just so expensive and gooey and hard to use for the beleaguered chocolate company. Wouldn’t you rather they got some extra money by selling off that ingredient to cosmetic companies for other products, rather than giving you the stuff you think you’re already paying for and eating?

On its Web site, Hershey’s explains that it uses PGPR “to improve processing characteristics of chocolate.” It also helps in molding chocolate. Right. Because we know that there were such difficulties with that before 2006, when Hershey’s altered the formula by giving us less cocoa product — and more chemicals that had to be studied in many labs so companies would know how much they could safely feed to us.

It makes you think. How did Hershey’s ever manage to mold chocolate for the 106 years before that? It couldn’t have been that difficult.

It’s merely more expensive.

Hey, chocolate makers: How about you not add products that are fantastic for greasing engines to your products without checking with us first, OK? Maybe you could add a little tag that says “Now, with even more emulsifiers!” or “Rich in ricin derivatives.”

I suppose it is reassuring that the FDA has labeled PGPR as GRAS, Generally Regarded as Safe. An even better idea might be to lobby to change that label to “Generally Regarded as Chocolate.” You know, generally. Or “Now! Even more like chocolate!”

That might be a good distinction to make, since studies that say that chocolate has great health-enhancing qualities all count on it being, you know, made from actual chocolate and actual cocoa butter, and not just the FDA legal minimum of each, along with a substance created in a lab.

As usual, my mother was horrified to hear the news about this quiet switcheroo. “Why are theyputting that in there?”

As usual, the answer was not uplifting. “Because it’s cheaper,” I told her. “Because they can.”

And, finally, they can do this because only a few buyers are reading ingredient labels and asking questions. If you see an acronym, look it up. You may not like what you find.

Some products that do contain PGPR:
Hershey’s
Hershey’s with Almonds
Mr. Goodbar
Krackel
Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
KitKat
Twix
Cadbury Fruit & Nut
Cadbury Dairy Milk

Some products that don’t contain PGPR:
Nestle Crunch
Butterfinger
M&M’s
Hershey’s Kisses
3 Musketeers
Theo chocolates
Newman’s Own
Ghirardelli
Lindt

Previously posted on my consumer protection blog, The Old Shoe (oldshoemag.com)

Pajama rules swap flame retardants for common sense

Every parent learns that you have to buy kids’ cotton pajamas two sizes too big. We’re not supposed to, according to the yellow hang tags from an unidentified authority, but that is how it’s done in reality.

Otherwise, kids look and feel like they’re wearing too-tight body stockings, and no one wants to sleep that way. (What if you get an itch? You’d then need to completely undress, sliding off that clingy cotton peel just to scratch your thigh.)

If the pajamas you buy in your kid’s size fit more reasonably, it’s because they are made of synthetic fibers (which may or may not have been chemically treated long before the fabric became pajamas) or have been made thoroughly coated in flame retardants that must make it through at least 50 washes in all their chemical goodness.

How did these pajama rules come about? And how many kids in loose cotton jammies were truly in danger before these regulations first came into effect in the 1970s? (And couldn’t that risk have a lot to do with the vastly greater numbers of parents who had cigarettes dangling from their lips in 1975?)

The tight fit is considered protective because no loose fabric means less of a chance that a sleeve or pant leg will be set ablaze.

And the rule change in the 1970s did result in a significant reduction in fire injuries to children. That was back when the manufacturers were using a few flame retardants that were so obviously hazardous to health that they were swiftly banned in 1977.

Today, I can safely say I seldom hold my children over an open flame. Particularly not when they are wearing pajamas. But then again, mine hardly ever wear pajamas anymore since they’re are so darned uncomfortable. The synthetic fibers are too heavy, and the cotton versions are too clingy. I like fire safety, but I also like having kids who will fall asleep at night.

But these fire-safe jammie laws mean nothing if everyone buys a bigger size or ditches the clothes for loose T-shirts and shorts. It’s common sense to avoid clothes that smell like chemicals. It’s common sense to buy clothes that fit. And it’s common sense to keep the kids away from things that make fire.

Until recently I was under the impression that these laws existed to protect kids who woke up in burning homes, but I was wrong. In 2000, a memo from the Consumer Product Safety Commission stated that children should only wear cotton pajamas when they are snug because loose garments catch fire fast. The press release notes, “Children are most at risk from burn injuries that result from playing with fire (matches, lighters, candles, burners on stoves) just before bedtime and just after rising in the morning.”

It sounds to me that rather than changing the clothes, fire prevention experts need to work on looking into households where kids routinely play with fire before bedtime. Limiting access to matches and lighters and teaching kids not to turn on the stove might be, say, a whole lot more effective. Guards that prevent young children from being able to turn on the stove would be a good move, too.

And maybe the parents could just make sure they occasionally look in on the kids. (Sadly, I know, that’s sometimes too much to ask.) I’d have to say that tight cotton pajamas and chemical-coated polyester blends certainly do seem to be a Band-Aid here.

They aren’t really doing the job, either, if most people avoid buying the products. It’s a little like banning brown wooly coats so children don’t get shot by hunters. It’s the free-ranging gun that’s the problem! Just like it’s the free-ranging fire sources that prompted these rules.

Let’s start a movement instead to get the lighters and matches away from kids, and outfit every home with a stove guard.

 

%d bloggers like this: