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Tuesday, March 28, 2023


by Jen Schneider

Additives have been debated for years with
bills proposed, then denied. Just this week
California (Assembly Bill 418) has tried. Again. To 
drum up support all while the 
Dollar General can no longer afford to sell 
eggs—a source of dense nutrients. Aisles instead 
full of fruit chews, colorful candies, cookies, cakes. 
     Oh my—Gigantic swaths of shelf space, all prime. 
     Products under fire for
“generally safe to consume” promises with limited review.
Hot Tamales and Skittles. Cupcakes and ice cream, too.
I’d like to know, I say as I chew my microwaved stew,
Is it too much to assume the 

            we consume are safe to drink?

Jokes on you, my colleague explains,
     craftiness on all corners
Kraft mac and cheese, too? I ask.
Love you, but yes, she says – 

      plastics involved in processing, plus 
      fat content

loopholes in laws persist
more foods make the danger list
Nerds? Double Bubble Twist gum? Not good news
Open the cabinets but be warned – there’s
propylparaben in caramel chocolate and high sugar in Nestle
Quik. Red Dye No 3. lurks in 

     protein shakes
     instant rice and potato products, and 
     cake mixes.

Rare is the boxed life form that doesn’t make the graph or
score in the game of
Skittles, Screams, Sell More

      Who. What. Where. 
      When. Why.      

The economist and poet in me wants to know.
      With 3,000 Red Dye No. 3 data points and 

that’s just the beginning—is relief in store?

Trolli Gummies and Trail mix, too. 
Titanium Dioxide can be found in cupcakes and ice cream. 
Underreported and overconsumed. 

     My graphs are in toil. 
     My plotting doomed.

Values collide. 
Voracious marketing blooms

ways of fudging ingredient lists
with words I can’t spell or repeat 

titanium dioxide
potassium bromate
brominated vegetable oil 

phthalates and 

Xtra-large Slurpees, too? 

Yogurts with bright red candy mix-ins.

Zero room for error. We wait. We philosophize. We think. 

Is the safety of our food supply too big a drink?

Author's Note: When ABCs Collide with Plot Points
As an econ major, I’ve long been interested in prisoner dilemmas, graphs that map (seek to match) supply and demand, and hikes of varying natures. On levels both macro and micro, I’ve wrestled with data and wondered, what is too much to ask. Of consumers. Of suppliers. Of truth tellers. Of faulty logic deniers. It’s a delicate dance. Public health and behavior as much commodities as any other letter that becomes targeted then charted as a supply meets demand number. Analytics morph in ways analogous to philosophy and experimental poetry. Personal choice a waltz subject to underutilized form and (sometimes) overindulged scorn. Ethics aside. No matter. Whether graphed in pencil and ink or AI-generated ChatGPT-think, I still believe that assuming one’s food supply is safe shouldn’t present an oxymoron (enjambments and plot points undenied). Instead, I accept realities, however baffling, I cannot change and bid farewell to a handful of foods (and ABCs) I used to love. 

Jen Schneider is an educator who lives, writes, and works in small spaces throughout Pennsylvania. Recent works include A Collection of RecollectionsInvisible InkOn Habits & Habitats, and Blindfolds, Bruises, and Breakups.