Americans Want Safer Food, Often (Literally) Eating Crap
Mike Licht ( via Creative Commons
Nothing is safe, nothing is sacred.

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9 Sketchy Places to Eat Dinner

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MagicMadzik via Creative Commons
By all means, tuck into a helping of fries after your fingers have been nestled in a sweaty old ball.

Hard-wired survival instincts demand you eat when your body is running low on fuel. But what about when hunger strikes and you're stuck at a Little League game, the taxidermist (it could happen!) or a Denny's? Those instincts for self-preservation may experience a moment of conflict when faced with the provisions in such a setting.

We've all experienced a bad meal in our lives (sometimes in seemingly auspicious settings), but some places are simply destined for disaster. Listed below are nine of 'em:   

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Adventures in Extreme Couponing

Categories: Buyer Beware
Photo Courtesy of Google Images

You may have already got caught up in the Extreme Couponing craze, but if not, let me fill you in - it's TLC's new show following different people who go to extreme lengths to strategically plan a shopping trip and can bring a bill up to $1,000 or more down to less than $50 (and sometimes even less than $10!) through the combination of coupons and in-store sales.

When I was watching those women walking out of the store with cart-fulls of groceries and paying less than I do on one of those oh-I-only-need-a-few-things trips I got really motivated to do it myself. Now, there's a reason why this show is called extreme - one couple bought over 70 bottles of mustard, just because it was free. I wasn't looking to create a glorious stockpile for a rainy day (or zombie apocalypse); I just wanted to save some money.

On the show, one of the biggest complaints heard by the couponers is that people don't have "enough time" to plan their shopping trip. So this past weekend, Sunday paper in hand, I decided to see how much money a "normal" person could expect to save. More »

Wendy's Natural-Cut Fries Not So Natural After All

Categories: Buyer Beware

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Wendy's Fries - they look natural enough..
Wendy's natural-cut fries with sea salt sound almost like granola in their commercials. The fast-food chain touts that the fries are natural-cut russet potatoes, sprinkled with sea salt for a fry that's better (and better for you).

Shocker of a lifetime -- Wendy's may not be exactly telling the whole truth. According to Yahoo Finance, it's true that Wendy's fries have a bit of skin left on them (making them look all golden and natural). But then they're sprayed with sodium acid pyrophosphate and dusted with dextrose, a corn-based sugar.

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Class Action Suit Involving General Mills' Digestive Health Yogurt: You Mean, It Doesn't Help Me Poo?!

Categories: Buyer Beware
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Gotta love a good ol' fashioned placebo effect.

Although many problematic poo-ers across the country swear that probiotic yogurts improve their digestion, the lack of scientific evidence has landed a few yogurt producers in hot toilet water (sorry).

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Breakfast at Aldi's: Way Cheaper Than Their Publix Competitor

I don't like grocery shopping.

While I will be the first to admit I love food, I will also admit I don't like buying it.

I've caught myself standing in the pasta aisle, comparing the deals between store brands and name brands, wondering if my coupon for Kraft macaroni and cheese makes it less than the Publix alternative. This has gone on multiple times, even in the same visit. I normally take a nap afterwards. Grocery shopping is exhausting.

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Daft Punk Partners With Coca-Cola

Bonsaichop via Wikimedia Commons
Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger Coca-Cola
In this week's head scratching celebrity/corporate moment of "synergy" Rolling Stone (via Hype Beast) is reporting that French duo Daft Punk is hooking up with Coca-Cola to launch a special edition release of Daft Punk-inspired Coke bottles. The product will be dubbed Daft Punk x Coca-Cola Club Coke.

The limited edition product is set to hit shelves in March. Thus far, there's no official company release, nor does Daft Punk's or Coke's website make mention of the relationship. Seeing as Daft Punk is no stranger to the occasional Internet hoax, we'll take this with a grain of salt 'til the product hits the shelves. Spoka, the European PR agency presumably in charge of promoting the Daft Punk/Coca-Cola marriage (their site's in French, a class that I unfortunately snoozed through), has said the bottles are a Coke product inspired by the French duo and any "promo" materials floating around the Web right now are fan-created, not from Daft Punk. 

In the event that this Daft Punk/Coca-Cola thing doesn't pan out, here's 5 equally odd or oddly appropriate musician/product pairings we wouldn't mind seeing:  

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Campaign Against Sucky Restaurant Websites

Categories: Buyer Beware
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It's great when restaurants have websites. Makes life easier than trudging through a thicket of Yelps or merry bands of Advising Tripsters. 

But just because an eatery has some HTML skills doesn't mean they have to use them. 

The Oatmeal has identified some of the worst traits of food-based websites. And it's true: Why is listing your hours so difficult? Do you really need some crazy, graphic-heavy flash-animation thing that takes minutes to load and looks like a 3-D Applebee's commercial? 
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How Much Would You Pay for the Burger of Your Life?

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The FleurBurger 5000!
Did you say $5,000?

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An Open Letter to Taco Bell

Categories: Buyer Beware
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Dear Taco Bell: 

I heard about the false-advertising lawsuit filed against you by a California woman alleging that the "seasoned ground beef" in your tacos, burritos, chalupas, etc., doesn't contain a whole lot of, you know... beef. 

In fact, the woman's attorney is quoted as saying that only 15 percent of the taco filling is actual protein, that the rest is seasonings and stuff like isolated oat product, wheat oats, soy lecithin, maltodextrin, anti-dusting agent, autolyzed yeast extract, modified corn starch, and sodium phosphate.

This does not sound like "seasoned ground beef" to me. It sounds like crap. I even read a news report that says you fast-food-industry guys, when you're sitting around talking to each other in private -- probably not over a Taco Bell taco but a nice, thick, juicy Wagyu steak with a bottle of good Bordeaux -- call this stuff "taco meat filling," which may be more accurate but still sounds like corporate weasel-speak for crap.

I see today that you have released a statement challenging the lawsuit's alleged "inaccurate facts" (kind of like "true lies") and claiming your "seasoned ground beef" or "taco meat filling" or "crap" is 88 percent beef with 12 percent "seasonings, spices, water and other ingredients that provide taste, texture and moisture." That may be. But it still tastes like crap. 

Now, I don't want to tell you how to run your business. But just in case your executives were too busy counting their annual bonuses or picking out the color of their new Mercedes SLKs to actually taste the food you're selling, I put together this little visual presentation to give you an idea of what a real taco is. 

I bought a couple of your "seasoned ground beef" tacos from a local Taco Bell. Then I compared them to another pair of tacos I bought at this little Mexican joint in my neighborhood, Tacos al Carbon. They don't have a bazillion-dollar advertising budget or a yappy and annoying spokesdog, and in all of their years of existence, they probably haven't made as much money as you spend redecorating the executive washroom. But they do make a damned fine taco.

Pay attention now -- you might learn something. 

This is one of your tacos and one of Tacos al Carbon's tacos. Which looks more appetizing?   
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This is both tacos deconstructed. Notice the difference? 
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Just to refresh your memory, this is where real ground beef comes from.   
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I hope your "taco meat filling" doesn't come from here.  
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 And I really hope it doesn't come from here.
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I patiently await your response. 

A. Customer

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