December 08, 2006

Wholly Guacamole

Alien: “What’s that?”
Scotty (holding up bottle): “It’s … it’s green.”

-- Star Trek

RESIDENTS OF CALIFORNIA, as any former or current Golden Stater will tell you, take their guacamole quite seriously. It’s understandable why, too. Avocados are so plentiful in California that it’s not all that unusual for people to have avocado trees in their backyards. Combine that with an abundance of restaurants serving Mexican and Californian cuisine, and you’ve got a discerning populace used to extremely fresh and extremely well-prepared guacamole.

This helps explain my interest in a lawsuit filed against Kraft Foods Inc., which makes a product called “Kraft Dips Guacamole.” According to the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles resident Brenda Lifsey has filed suit against the food company, charging it with fraud related to their guacamole product.

Last year, Mrs Lifsey bought the product and made some dip with it, only to discover to her horror that “Kraft Dips Guacamole” had practically no avocado in it. Naturally, the most reasonable course of action available to Mrs Lifsey was to file a civil suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court. According to the Times, she seeks to prevent Kraft from marketing the product as guacamole, as well as attorney’s fees and punitive damages. The lawsuit seeks class-action status – and understandably so, considering the sought-after compensatory and punitive damages here would otherwise amount to roughly $12.

Now, some folks have asked whether Mrs Lifsey could have actually read the label before buying the product, or asked for her money back, or written a nastygram to the company, or complained to the store, rather than sue. Some people have also argued that Mrs Lifsey knowingly purchased a product from Kraft Foods Inc., and as such knew or should have known it would taste like crap.

There’s definitely something to that last point, if you ask me. I mean, for God’s sake, this is a company which sells a macaroni-and-cheese product in which the “cheese” is a powdery orange substance. Not only that, but Kraft’s deluxe macaroni-and-cheese product is made with Velveeta, a substance which can detarnish silver and unclog one’s kitchen drains. Thus, one could feasibly argue Mrs Lifsey knew, or should have known, what the devil she was getting into when she bought the package of “Kraft Dips Guacamole.”

That said, though, it’s fundamentally wrong to pass off a chemical stew as honest-to-God guacamole. According to the Times, Kraft’s product is “a whipped paste made from partially hydrogenated soybean and coconut oils, corn syrup, whey and food starch.” They even use yellow and blue dyes to make it green.

And that, my friends, is just so wrong on so many levels. It would be one thing if it was called an avocado-influenced dip or something like that, but if you’re calling it guacamole, it should by rights have enough avocado in it so that you don’t have to artificially color it green.

The good news for consumers, however, is that actual guacamole can be bought ready-made at the store. For instance, Calavo Growers Inc. – based in the friendly small city of Santa Paula, Calif. – produces a guacamole with avocado, onion, salt, cilantro, garlic, and that’s all. It runs about $4 for a package, and I’ve found it does the trick when I’ve had a guacamole jones but haven’t wanted to spend an hour making the stuff.

Posted by Benjamin Kepple at December 8, 2006 06:55 AM | TrackBack
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