EDITOR'S COLUMN: Who puts the stickers on fruit

Having decided to lose a few pounds, I recently visited the grocery store fruit section for the first time in many years. This was a serious visit, beyond grabbing some bananas or apples on the way to the Hostess Snowballs. This was a dieter’s visit, one in which each food item is scrutinized for potential taste, calories and fiber. Because a dieter knows this particular piece of fruit may be the last thing he eats for hours, so it’d better be good. I was shocked to discover upon close inspection that all the fruit is now brand-named, and each piece of fruit sports its own sticker. When did this happen?

There were Delite tangerines, “Delite … to the last little bite,” as the blue sticker with tangerine lettering stated. Stickers also have numbers, with this particular tangerine’s number being 4450. If I buy a bad tangerine, can it be tracked to the packer person whose number is 4450? If so, 4450 probably spends many sleepless night worried that a bad tangerine will be traced to him, and he’ll be booted out of the country as an illegal alien who can’t judge fruit.

I walked around the store collecting stickers. I figured it wasn’t stealing. There were thousands of them, and sticker-less fruit sells for the same as stickered fruit. But I got a curious look from a produce guy wondering about the person who seemed so interested in the fruit. He probably figured I was a fruit. After I had a couple of dozen I put them in my wallet, which was a mistake. Monday morning when I consulted my stickers to write this column, they were all stuck together. Another poor research technique by someone who will never win a Pulitzer Prize.

Much of the morning I spent prying stickers apart, which probably explained why I’m working on a salary instead of hourly. Whoever hired me had me pegged pretty well.

I pried off a sticker with a green border and yellow and white interior with an flag of indeterminate nationhood outlined. Printed in the border were the words, “Eurofresh,” and “pesticide free.” Trouble was, I couldn’t remember what fruit it came from. It was obviously a New World Order type of fruit. I’ll try to find the packer, number 4798, and find out what it was.

An avocado sported the Mission brand, and boasted of being from California. And it was particularly proud of its number, 4046, which was printed in very large type (for a fruit sticker). A Fuji apple, “crisp and sweet,” included the grown in Washington label, and the number 4131.

Wandering over to the vegetable section, I was surprised to see that stickers are catching on there, too. There was a big golden sticker on an Acorn squash, and the biggest sticker in the store was on a “Maui Fresh Jicama Crisp Juice Vegetable,” a product not of Maui, but of Mexico. This sticker even had instruction on how to use a jicama, which is an unusually ugly vegetable. Number 4626 did a nice job with the sticker placement, considering the bumpy terrain.

Overall the stickers were impressive but the obscure name brands don’t do much of a sales job. I’m sure it won’t be long before that problem is fixed. Coming soon to a grocery store near will be Nike Nectarines, Reebok Red Apples and Bill Blass Bananas. I’m sure you won’t mind paying $20 for your kid’s fashionable name-brand Calvin Klein Cucumber.

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