Friday, December 4, 2009

Shake 'N Bake Revisited

I was cleaning out my cabinets and found a box of Shake 'N Bake. It reminded me of a somewhat humorous exchange I had with Kraft Foods, Inc. and I thought I'd share it with you:

A while back, I got on a kick where I was breading tofu with Shake 'N Bake Hot and Spicy and then baking the heck out of it. At first glance, Shake 'N Bake seemed like it was vegetarian, but I'm a label reader and I just wanted to be 100% sure I wasn't consuming beef or chicken.

So, I sent this simple comment in on Kraft's Web site, thinking I'd get my answer, and then shake 'n bake to my heart's content:

"I am a vegetarian and would like to use your Shake N'Bake products to coat tofu before I bake it. do the natural flavors include non-vegetarian components?"

And here was the response:

"Hi ________,

Thank you for visiting I'm glad to share some information with you about the "natural vegetarian flavors" used in SHAKE 'N BAKE(r) Seasoned Coating Mix.The term natural vegetarian flavors means that all flavor components are both all natural and of vegetable origin. While we are not at liberty to reveal specific details regarding product formulations, please be assured that our products are formulated to meet the specific needs of vegetarians and natural food consumers.If you haven't done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

Associate Director, Consumer Relations"

Okay...but that didn't answer my question. So, I tried to get the clarification I needed:

"Thank you for your response.

I want to clarify that the ingredients do not say "natural vegetarian flavors." They say "natural flavors." I want to make certain that "natural" does not mean meat/chicken/animal derived.

Can you please verify?

Thank you!"

And Kim cheerfully replied:

"Hi ________,

Thank you for visiting

I'd be glad to help explain the labeling of the spices and natural flavors used in our products. Spices which may be declared by name or included under the term spices on the ingredients label include the following: Allspice, Anise, Basil, Bay leaves, Caraway seed, Cardamon, Celery seed, Chervil, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin seed, Dill seed, Fennel Seed, Fenugreek, Ginger, Horseradish, Mace, Marjoram, Mustard flour, Nutmeg, Oregano, Paprika, Parsley, Pepper (black, white, or red), Rosemary, Saffron, Sage, Savory, Star aniseed, Tarragon, Thyme and Turmeric. Garlic and onion aren't included under the term "spices" on an ingredient label.

All of our food labeling is in accordance with strict United States government regulations.

A natural flavor must come from a natural source and can't be synthetically manufactured. Examples of natural flavorings include lemon oil, almond extract and garlic extract. Because of the sensitive nature of the formulas for our products, information regarding the specific spices and/or natural flavorings is considered confidential. Of course, all of our food labeling is in accordance with strict United States government regulations.

Again, thanks for contacting us, and I hope you'll continue to enjoy our products.

Associate Director, Consumer Relations"

What the heck, Kim? Are you a robot? Can't you just tell me what I'm eating?

"Dear Kim,

But you can't tell me if the natural flavor is vegetarian? With all due respect, the translation is - I want to use your product, but I don't want to consume MEAT! If it has chicken or beef or fish, then I can't buy it.

I want to recommend it to fellow vegetarians, but I can't, if it has meat in it.

I just want to know if I can use Shake N' Bake Hot and Spicy, that's all. I'm not trying to recreate your recipe.

Can you please provide me with a "YES, it's vegetarian" or "NO, it's not vegetarian" answer?

Many thanks,

And here is where Kim politely tells me "tough toenails":

"Hi ______,

Thank you for visiting

I understand that knowing what ingredients are in the food products you eat directly affect how you practice your dietary lifestyle, and Kraft Foods does all that it can to assist its consumers in making educated food decisions.

I apologize but unfortunately this ingredient information is not currently available.

As you can imagine our products change frequently, and maintaining a list of products for specific dietary practices would be virtually impossible.

If you haven't done so already, please add our site to your favorites and visit us again soon!

Associate Director, Consumer Relations"

Do you think Kim was gritting her teeth when she thanked me for visiting their site...again?! Do you think she really wanted me to add their site to my favorites? Just sayin'...

So...are you as freaked out as I am that no one at Kraft knows what is included in their products? This scares me a little! Natural the sweepings that usually get whisked into the dust pan count as natural flavors? How about sand?

Needless to say, I haven't Shaked N' Baked since. Which is why the lone packet of S'NB was up in my cabinet when I put groceries away last night...

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