Joyce Fassl
Congress continues to support the food industry in stopping nuisance law suits brought by consumers who say they gained weight after using a food or beverage manufacturer's product. One of the first targets was Oreos, and then came McDonald's, which recently abandoned its Super Size menu. Now, high fructose corn syrup is on the radar screen.

Each American eats about 28 pounds of french fries per year. Research shows that 90 percent of all fries are sold in quick service restaurants (QSR). At 28 pounds per capita per year, nine out of ten Americans would have to eat at a QSR once a week. I don't know about you, but if I eat at a fast food palace like McDonald's or Wendy's more than once a month it's a rare occasion. I do, however, inhale a burger and fries usually once a month at a chain restaurant like Friday's or at the local grill. In a really bad behavior month, I could eat a pound of fries. Unlike Morgan Spurlock of the Super Size Me film fame, I always ask to be Down Sized.

According to McDonald's website, small fries are 2.6 oz. and large are 6 oz. When I checked Wendy's website, its medium fries are 5 oz. and the kid's size is 3.2 oz. I always ask for small fries when I go to Wendy's. Now I have no idea if I am getting the 5 oz. for a whopping 390 calories or the kiddie size at 250 calories. By the heft of the serving, I think my days are numbered eating Wendy's fries.

Whoever coined the term "freedom fries" may be on the right track. As Americans, we all have the freedom to keep our mouths closed to bad food choices or excessive indulgence.

And in keeping with the tradition of freedom and excessive indulgence, a new S&M themed restaurant called Dungeon recently opened in Israel. Not only can the setting hurt you, but so will the extremely hot food. If you send your food back, you may be tortured. I have to wonder what they will think of next. One thing I do know is that I am happy we have the freedom of so many choices.

Food Engineering conference attracts more than 200 people

Thanks to your support, Food Engineering's Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo broke a record by attracting more than 200 attendees last month in Sarasota, FL. Featured speakers included food operations and engineering directors from manufacturing companies such as General Mills, Welch's, Kraft, Ben & Jerry's, and Jelly Belly Candy. One of the highlights of the event was the New Plant of the Year award presentation to Pepperidge Farm (see page 11). A full report on the conference will be published in the June issue of Food Engineering.

Mark your calendar for the next Food Automation & Manufacturing Conference and Expo scheduled for April 10-13, 2005 at the Sheraton Sand Key Resort in Clearwater Beach, FL