« The World (Shijie) | Main | Speak, Canvas »

The Dodge Transparent

And so we learn that McDonalds is being sued by some celiacs over the fact that it at first said its french fries were gluten-free, and then it quietly added to its website that they were not.

Okay, I'm a celiac. I don't normally go into McDonalds because there isn't much in there that I feel safe eating, but certainly french fries seemed safe. And, in fact, I have on rare occasions, in emergency "I'm starving" situations, gone in and bought a big old wad of french fries. What could go wrong? They're just potatos, grease, and salt, right?

I've already seen a few blogs out there with the predictable "tort reform" party line which pretty much  derides these lawsuits by deploying the "bitch was too stupid to know the coffee was hot" defense. One blogger even suggests that if people are gluten-intolerant, they should drop out of the gene pool. That last bit is the well-known blog phenomenon of imagining you are being outrageous when in fact you're just recycling the same old shtick.

First, let's get a couple of things straight. Celiac disease is not an allergy to wheat. There is such a thing as wheat allergy, but being allergic to wheat is not the celiac's particular problem.

Celiac disease is an auto-immune disease. You are born with it. When a celiac is exposed to certain proteins, his body's immune system responds by attacking and destroying the lining of the gut. It's not a very intelligent thing for the immune system to do, but there it is. The damage is extensive and long-term and is not solved by going to the emergency room and getting shot up with antihistamines or anything else. The damage drastically reduces the body's ability to absorb nutrition from any and all food that you eat. Eating a ton and at the same time starving to death creates all sorts of problems for you, as I'm sure you can imagine. The only solution to the problem is to assiduously avoid eating anything that has the triggering proteins in it -- that would be anything with wheat, rye, barley, and (maybe) oats in it.

In short, you can't have anything to do with gluten. It has nothing to do with the amount you are exposed to. A very tiny amount of gluten can trigger the body's immune response. It's not like you can have "just a taste" of sonny-boy's birthday cake, or just a sip of your buddy's beer. You can't even lick a god-damned envelope because the glue on it has gluten in it.

Second, the gluten-free diet is not a "healthy eating habits" diet. It is a prescription from your doctor. It's something you have to do to keep your body from destroying itself. I think there is a tendency among celiacs to end up eating healthier diets, but I think that's only because celiacs have to become acutely aware of every little thing they eat. There is nothing in a gluten-free diet that says you can't eat tons of fatty cheese (providing there is no annato in it), or slabs of artery-clogging meat (provided there is no soy sauce in the recipe), or, well, french fries, for heaven's sake -- providing there are no wheat products involved.

There seems to be some notion in the tort-reform blogger's minds that if you are on a gluten-free diet you are, per se, a "health nut" and so what the hell were you doing in McDonalds in the first place? Sorry, no. That's not the way it works.

The only thing that separates a celiac from the rest of you clowns is that a celiac, if he wants to buy processed foods, pretty much has to rent a carrel in the grocery store or local fast-food joint so he can study the ingredient labels of everything he wants to buy. Try it sometime. You'll be surprised how many things have wheat in them, things you'd never imagine would. Keep in mind that while "food starch" is likely corn starch, it isn't necessarily corn starch and so you can't risk eating any product that lists it on its label.

And so the tort-reform blogger's response is, "So don't eat processed foods!" Well, a lot of celiacs don't, which is one of the reasons we end up appearing to eat healthier diets. And, you know, that's fine. But let's just talk about transparency for a minute.

Let's hear from the tort-reformer's hero, the President hisself, speaking on the subject of Health Care Initiatives, in particular health savings accounts:

But the key thing in a health savings account is you actually put a patient in charge of his or her decisions -- which we think is a vital aspect of making sure the health care system is not only modern, but a health care system in which costs are not running out of control. And part of making sure consumers, if they have a decision to make, can make rational decisions is for there to be transparency in pricing. In other words, how can you make a rational decision unless you fully understand the pricing options or the quality options. When you go buy a car, you know, you're able to shop and compare. And, yet, in health care, that's just not happening in America today.

There's a debate here in Washington about who best to make decisions. Some up here believe the federal government should be making decisions on behalf of people. I believe that consumers should be encouraged to make decisions on behalf of themselves. And health savings accounts and transparency go hand-in-hand.
I look forward to working with Congress to strengthen, not weaken, but strengthen these very important products that puts the doctor and the patient in the center of the health care decision.... [W]e will continue to implement transparency.... I predict that when this -- as this society becomes more transparent, as the consumers have more choice to make, you'll see better cost containment.

So let me just ask the tort and healthcare reformers this... Do you really expect us to believe that patients will be able to shop for doctors and other health-care providers through some system of "transparency"? I mean, I might fall for that one if I thought "transparency" was something that was actually valued by the people pushing for these reforms, but it isn't: the tort-reformers have contempt for anybody who sues McDonalds for not being "transparent".

What's wrong with this picture? I'll tell you what's wrong with it: "Transparency" is a dodge.

The irony is rich, but it's also, thankfully, so far as I can make out from the ingredients list, gluten-free.


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Dodge Transparent:


You are not helped in this crusade by the fact that in addition to coeliacs, many other people choose to follow a (normally just somewhat) gluten-free diet. Why, I know not. Some of them are surely coeliac. But the rest?

Hmm. Not sure what crusade you are referring to, and why I am not helped in that crusade, whatever it is, by the fact that people besides celiacs choose a gluten-free diet.

(And yes, for those who might be wondering, the Brits and the Yanks spell the word differently.)

I've been reading your blog for a while now, and I just wanted to let you know that I enjoy it a great deal. Thank you for another brilliant - and educational - post. It taught me a lot about why some people are forced to stick to a gluen-free diet.

Thank you very much for saying so, Mikhail. Is that Swedish for "Michael"? I know it is in Russian. I pay attention to these things because my name is Michael.

I was poking around your LJ. Congrats on finishing your rough draft. Your English is very good, btw. And no accent at all! :)

I wrote a "web sf novel" once. It was fun but when I look back at it, of course I can see it has problems. But, like I said, it was fun doing it. If you are interested in reading some or all of it, you can get to it through this entry.

This is not the first time that McDonalds has been sued because they used ingredients that were different than what they were purported to be.

Some people are gamed by three sentence extracts of court decisions, and they somehow believe that complex issues can be boiled down into fifteen seconds of truth. Just about anything can be ridiculed that way.

But for real abuse of the court system, those same people ought to take a good look at some of the business to business cases that drag on for years by playing the system. One example, is the SCO-IBM suit. So far this case has been going on three years, and SCO has yet to produce one single line of the millions of lines of infringing code that it claims it has proof of. Lest I be acussed of reductio ad absurdum, see the complete history at groklaw.org. It is an eye opener.

Post a comment

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

In Memory

May 2006

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
  1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31      


  • Technorati search