Thursday, April 22, 2010

Asinine TV Dinner Instructions

Two things jumped out at me from the instructions on the back of my Healthy Choice Cafe Steamers: General Tso's Spicy Chicken TV dinner.

CAREFULLY remove film from top as PRODUCT WILL BE HOT.
This is pretty standard, but it's still amusingly over-the-top. Anyone with the least bit of life experience knows that items placed in the microwave tend to heat up. (Also, why does CAREFULLY deserve to be in bold, but not PRODUCT WILL BE HOT?)

CHECK that product is cooked thoroughly. Internal temperature needs to reach 165 degrees F as measured by a food thermometer in several spots.
Wow. Some people are too lazy to cook, so they make TV dinners. Other people routinely check the temperature of their meals using a food thermometer in several spots. It's doubtful that there's any overlap between these two groups.

These extremely cautious directions are no doubt a result of the 1994 McDonald's coffee lawsuit. Now, consumers have no one to blame but themselves. You can almost sense the committee of lawyers that oversaw the process. Why else would the directions always refer to your food as "product" instead of "food" or "meal"?

The most litigious among us are ruining it for the rest. There are tradeoffs between how useful and how legally thorough a set of directions can be. For the sake of an extremely small group of people, companies now have to err on the side of caution, sacrificing brevity and clarity for the majority of their customers.

2 comments:

Adam Gurri said...

The worse part is that even after putting all these ridiculous commonsense warnings on everything, it still doesn't protect the company when they get sued. In fact, even if they have a government granted certification of safeness of some sort, it doesn't help them in court.

Greg Finley said...

Yep. And the possibility of lawsuits decreases the expected profitability of being in the TV dinner business, making the "product" more expensive for all of us.