There is no “bait and switch” in food industry

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Editor:

I feel mildly abused and somewhat insulted by Ms. Seabolt’s column of May 21, 2009. Having worked in the food industry most of my life, I take strong exception to the writer’s conclusion that the food industry employs some evil genius to play “bait and switch” with package contents to bilk the public.

She is almost totally ignorant of the evolution that has taken place. I grew up in the depression and saw it happen, most of which was to the good.

For example, take coffee. In 1932, more than 50 percent of the population lived on farms. They seldom went to town more than once a week and many times once in two or three weeks.

Many households were extended families of two or three generations and sometimes with a hired man mixed in. So, the quantity of coffee consumed at home was greater.

No Starbucks in those days or any other coffee carryout. The only coffee consumed not at home was perhaps with a meal or a piece of pie and a cup of coffee — both, rare indulgences in those days.

Hence, since coffee gets stale rather quickly and you may want to stock regular and decaf, the package quantity has declined.

As to cereals, in 1932, the only cold cereals I can recall were Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Post Toasties and NBC’s Shredded Wheat Biscuits. Now that there has been a great proliferation of brands and smaller families, the same evolution has taken place.

Overall, food is the cheapest it has ever been. In 1900, all food consumed took more than 50 percent of disposable income; in 1933 it took 24 percent; in 1979 it took 16.6 percent and today takes less than 14 percent (my latest information).

Food prices have gone up, but not nearly as much as wages. For example, in 1950 the average manufacturing wage was $1.44 per hour and milk was $.18 per quart. In one hour you could earn enough to buy eight quarts.

In 2009, the average manufacturing wage is $14.32 and milk is $1.07 per quart. One hour of work will get you 13.4 quarts.

Ms. Seabolt, please, do your homework before you complain.

Nels E. Scheel

Columbiana, Ohio

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