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Funny Writing Sneaks in Important Facts


For label readers, Patrick Di Justo’s book This is What You Just Put in Your Mouth? is an informative, funny primer about what’s really in some food and household products. Though the ingredient lists sometimes gave me the willies, Di Justo dispels some ingredient fallacies and the clever writing always made me laugh.

Inspired by a friend’s wondering what was in a can of Kraft Easy Cheese Aerosol Spread, the book contains short, understandable scientific explanations of mostly non-familiar ingredients in certain foods. Some of the entries include “Backstory” sections with quirky history and details specific to the subject. Best among them is the overview of EAFUS - “Everything Added to Food in the United States.” While that sounds like a category in a Jeopardy! spoof, it is actually a U. S Food and Drug Administration database with information on the nearly 4,000 permitted ingredients and additives.

About Purina Alpo Chop House Beef Tenderloin Flavor in Gourmet Gravy canned dog food, Di Justo says “The legal definition of beef stretches like a pair of Spanx to include striated skeletal muscle, tongue, diaphragm…”etc. Noting that while the label calls for “beef tenderloin flavor, its “…appearance underneath the meat by products…” made Di Justo think “there just might be more spleen than sirloin…” in Fido’s dinner.

Despite the potential for crude humor, the author gives gas-reducing product Beano a surprisingly straightforward treatment. He does mention that high doses of mildly sweet sugar alcohols such as mannitol, a Beano ingredient, can cause “…intestinal distress, including bloating, diarrhea and… explosive flatulence.” It’s good to know that even the lowly Beano can inspire irony.

In the This is What You Don’t Put in Your Mouth section, Di Justo gives non-edible products the same careful yet hilarious scrutiny. Of toluene, a gasoline ingredient, Di Justo says “Inhaling it will get you high, but there is…evidence that toluene damages your brain. And really, if you’re huffing gasoline, you don’t need to be any stupider.” Who says warnings can’t be pithy?

Oh, and the Kraft spray cheese that gave birth to this book? The author sums up the American predilection for excess by writing that “Eating one full can of Easy Cheese (handily within the skill set of the average couch potato) provides all the sodium…calcium…and half the cholesterol you should eat in one day.” Such sharply-observed humor mixed with facts makes This Is What You Just Put in Your Mouth? a treat that won’t grow you a third eye.