Thursday, July 12, 2007

Cardboard: It's What's for Dinner

Undercover TV reporters in China discovered that some food vendors there are using cardboard flavored with pork to make the items they offer up for consumption. CNN talks about it like it's a bad thing, saying 'it highlights China's problems with food safety,' but I think CNN has it all wrong. The back-alley food vendors in China are actually on the leading edge of what could be the next new culinary trend: cardboard.

Sure, the details from the undercover report are totally disgusting a little odd:

The bun maker and his assistants then give a demonstration on how the product is made. Squares of cardboard picked from the ground are first soaked to a pulp in a plastic basin of caustic soda -- a chemical base commonly used in manufacturing paper and soap -- then chopped into tiny morsels with a cleaver. Fatty pork and powdered seasoning are stirred in. [CNN, July 12, 2007]
But is it fair to discredit cardboard as a food source just because the culinary techniques employed in China may be different from our own? I think not. For all we know, local custom could be such that dead rats are picked up off the ground and cooked the same way. But you don't see any CNN stories talking about how eating rats is bad, do you? No. In fact, last time CNN reported about the consumption of rats they quoted a government official as saying rodents were a delicacy. So, why do they not similarly hail cardboard as a tasty treat?

Certainly not because of concerns over its safety. After all, cardboard is made from cellulose and cellulose is used in foods as an additive. Thus, it should be perfectly acceptable to eat cellulose. To be sure, though, I conducted extensive research on the topic. (By that I mean I did a Google search.) I found a
World Health Organization report summarizing various studies in which rats and unsuspecting individuals in underdeveloped countries were randomized to receive diets of cellulose, foraged weeds or the rats that were fed cellulose in earlier experiments. The report concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that cellulose can not be part of a healthy diet.

I also found that the Discovery Channel's Mythbusters show once tested the nutritional properties of a cardboard box. (Video
link - sorry, I could only find it in Spanish, but here's a summary in English.) And guess what? They determined that cardboard boxes are a low calorie and low fat food, which makes them just about the perfect thing for health- and weight-conscious individuals to eat. The Mythbusters guys also tasted the box and said it tasted like cardboard. Yum!

Finally, on what must be the highly reputable website of a cardboard industry group and not just some sort of spoof because the URL ends in .org, I came across this:

The Cardboard Council is the leader in cardboard nutrition research, education and communication... A professional staff of nutritionists and dietitians is available to answer questions on virtually any topic related to cardboard, nutrition, scientific research, diet and health. The Cardboard Council also administers grants to independent researchers to aid in the discovery of information about cardboard and the important role it plays in a healthy lifestyle. [Link]
Given all this info, along with America's penchant for gorging on low-calorie substitutes to all our favorite treats, it's only a matter of time before numerous products made from cardboard and flavoring additives -- products akin to those Chinese pork buns that those sensationalist journalists over at CNN are making such a fuss about -- make it to US grocery shelves. Just remember when you start seeing ads for Cardboard Oreos, you heard it here first.

(If you want to show your love for cardboard, the t-shirt above can be found here.)


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Anonymous said...

China reporter held for fake cardboard-in-buns story

I think you guys should check the story out before making this type of post.

Parlancheq said...

Anonymous: As soon as the Associated Press and CNN broke the 'Chinese cardboard buns' story, one of this blog's many investigative reporters was immediately dispatched to China to do a fact check. Unfortunately he fell ill after eating buns which may or may not have been made of cardboard, and was unable to complete his investigation. Regardless, the management of this blog stands by the post's original conclusion -- that cardboard is going to be the next big trend in the food industry -- which was extensively fact checked as detailed in the post.