As a child I was given over to brimming excitement whenever I had the opportunity to open a box of cereal that was clearly holding a foreign object inside. In this case the foreign object was most always a toy, sticker, or some shiny inedible object that was depicted in three colors on the front of the box. But sometimes, if I were really lucky, I would find an orphaned flake or cereal grain from another batch of cereal that clearly was not part of the homogeny that was the cereal I was holding.
In reality this was an indicator of the fact that many different cereals (of all shapes and sizes) were likely processed at the same plant and one errant O or flake got mixed in with the cereal monoculture. But for a six-year-old child, this held some near magical significance. In short, I kind of liked finding unexpected things in my food.
This past week Congressman Dennis Kucinich from Ohio filed suit against Longworth House Office Building cafeteria in Washington DC over something entirely unexpected in his food (a pesky olive pit found in a wrap he purchased there in 2008). Seems the congressman bit into the wrap (which was advertised as having pitted olives) and summarily sustained some pretty unpleasant damage to his teeth (or tooth). Needless to say, the Ohio representative did not derive the same amount of enjoyment from the unexpected surprise as I did as a child. But admittedly finding some lone cereal flakes in a box is a lot different than chomping down on an olive pit.
The fact is, while much has been made recently about the relative safety of our food supply, the food we purchase from cafes and supermarkets is just rife with all sorts of unadvertised stowaways. In virtually all foods that have been processed or packaged for human consumption there exists a level of “acceptable” foreign objects or “natural contaminants” in our food supply — meaning, among other things, bugs, mold, rodent hairs and maggots.