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Let's rid the fast-food monster of its teeth

By James Healy | China Daily | Updated: 2023-09-14 08:16
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Do you like cheeseburgers and french fries as much as I do? How about dumplings or tacos?

Do you like any of them enough to reach into a shark's mouth to retrieve them, knowing full well that you might scrape razor-sharp teeth on the way in or out?

That's pretty much what you have to do these days when takeout food is delivered, since so many restaurants now seal their bags with staples.

The intention is good, because securely closing the bag helps ensure food safety. We can rest assured that no one has tampered with our meal before it arrives.

But surely the use of tape, which many eateries do choose instead, is safer by far than staples. The latter are pulled into bare-fang position when a bag is opened, exposing lots of little teeth that find and surprise your wrist, hand or fingers. Ouch!

Not to mention that a puncture wound from a staple, especially on a finger, is not only painful, but prone to infection as well.

Furthermore, staples, being made of steel, are hardly environmentally friendly.

And they pose yet another danger. They can fall into food such as french fries and accidentally be consumed. Believe me, you don't want to ingest a staple, especially not an open one.

I actually found a staple in a bag of french fries one night in Beijing. It reminded me of the time when, as a teenager, I was working at my favorite local burger joint the day we offered a free hamburger, fries and soda to anyone who walked through the door (which hundreds subsequently did).

We prepared our fries daily from fresh potatoes, and on that particular day I was kept very busy, nonstop in fact, cutting potatoes using a hand-operated chopper. I used a long fork to pluck a submerged potato out of a huge post-peeling bin, quickly pushed it into the cutting box and then forcefully lowered the multibladed cutter, hundreds of times.

The chopper eventually buckled under the strain, and a small piece of sharp metal blade, unbeknownst to us, broke off and found its way into a customer's bag of hot, crispy fries. Luckily for all involved, she found it and did not accidentally consume it, so no harm was done.

But woe to anyone who is not so fortunate.

What's more, the open staple that we're lucky enough to avoid when eagerly reaching into a bag of food poses a hazard to anyone who handles the bag after we discard it. So I make it a habit to remove the staples before recycling a bag, which can be time-consuming.

How many millions of these tiny steel nuisances are introduced each day into the food chain? Indeed, some restaurants go all out and use eight staples when two would do, which increases the danger and the waste. It also requires more physical exertion to open the bag, thereby guaranteeing that every staple is opened and ready to pounce.

Why don't we put an end to this practice and ensure that rice and bread remain our only "staple foods", and not french fries?

Let's defang the fast-food monster and just use tape to seal the deal.

Our hands, and the environment, will be glad we did.


James Healy



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